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What Good is NASA? Heat Pipes that help cool CPUs are one example - What Good is NASA? Heat Pipes that help cool CPUs are one example
Thu Oct 20, 2011 | 1:58P| PermaLink
www.frostytech.comToday's interesting tech tid-bit is lifted from Wikipedia; "The general principle of heat pipes using gravity (commonly classified as two phase thermosiphons) dates back to the steam age. The modern concept for a capillary driven heat pipe was first suggested by R.S. Gaugler of General Motors in 1942 who patented the idea.[5] The benefits of employing capillary action were independently developed and first demonstrated by George Grover at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1963 and subsequently published in the Journal of Applied Physics in 1964.[6] Grover noted in his notebook:[7]

"Heat transfer via capillary movement of fluids. The "pumping" action of surface tension forces may be sufficient to move liquids from a cold temperature zone to a high temperature zone (with subsequent return in vapor form using as the driving force, the difference in vapor pressure at the two temperatures) to be of interest in transferring heat from the hot to the cold zone. Such a closed system, requiring no external pumps, may be of particular interest in space reactors in moving heat from the reactor core to a radiating system. In the absence of gravity, the forces must only be such as to overcome the capillary and the drag of the returning vapor through its channels."

Between 1964 and 1966, RCA was the first corporation to undertake research and development of heat pipes for commercial applications (though their work was mostly funded by the US government). During the late 1960s NASA played a large role in heat pipe development by funding a significant amount of research on their applications and reliability in space flight following from Grover's suggestion. NASA’s attraction to heat pipe cooling systems was understandable given their low weight, high heat flux, and zero power draw. Their primary interest however was based on the fact that the system wouldn’t be adversely affected by operating in a zero gravity environment. The first application of heat pipes in the space program was in thermal equilibration of satellite transponders. As satellites orbit, one side is exposed to the direct radiation of the sun while the opposite side is completely dark and exposed to the deep cold of outer space. This causes severe discrepancies in the temperature (and thus reliability and accuracy) of the transponders. The heat pipe cooling system designed for this purpose managed the high heat fluxes and demonstrated flawless operation with and without the influence of gravity. The developed cooling system was the first description and usage of variable conductance heat pipes to actively regulate heat flow or evaporator temperature."


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