April 20, 2018

WPI, NASA developing cooling systems for deep-space travel

Courtesy | WPI
Jamal Yagoobi and his cooling device aboard a NASA zero-gravity aircraft.

A team of mechanical engineers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and NASA have developed a cooling system that is hoped to one day help carry astronauts to Mars and other deep-space destinations.

The system, according to WPI, was proven successful in a long-term experiment on the International Space Station.

The system's simplicity and lack of moving parts make it an attractive option for deep-space travel, WPI said. It uses electrically charged fluids to absorb and carry heat away from electronics and other components that generate heat.

Jamal Yagoobi, head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at WPI and principal investigator for the project, called the device the first of its kind to be tested in space.

"This positions us well for the next phase of the work," he said.

Yagoobi's system was launched aboard the SpaceX Dragon SpX-10 commercial resupply craft in February 2017, and it will continue to operate on the ISS until August.

Another cooling system being developed by Yagoobi and his team is designed to pump condensed liquid film toward a heat source to boil, and the bubbles generated are extracted by another mechanism in a zero-gravity atmosphere, carrying heat away from the source.

Liquid would then be condensed and pumped back to the heat source.

That system is expected to launch to the ISS in 2021.

"This is going to be highly complex," Yagoobi said in a statement. "Results will be downloading every five seconds. If there's a correction needed, we have to provide it right away. We want to make sure this is successful."

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