FLUID DYNAMICS

Uncool heat pipes in microgravity

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Science  22 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6237, pp. 877
DOI: 10.1126/science.348.6237.877-e

Heat pipes are efficient heat transfer systems commonly used to cool things such as microprocessors. Heat pipes have a hot end that evaporates liquid, which flows as vapor to a cold end that condenses it. The liquid then normally returns to the hot end through capillary action, completing a circuit with a net cooling effect, although the hot end commonly dries out, lowering the performance of the device—at least on Earth. Kundan et al. investigated how heat pipes work in the microgravity of the International Space Station. Surprisingly, on the station, the hot end quickly floods, because of changes in surface tension caused by the lower gravity. This observation suggests that heat pipes will have different performance limitations in space.

Phys. Rev. Lett. 10.1103/PhysRevLett.114.146105 (2015).

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