Steady State and Transient Loop Heat Pipe Modeling 2000-01-2316
The NASA-standard thermohydraulic analyzer, SINDA/FLUINT (Ref 1), has been used to model various aspects of loop heat pipe* (LHP) operation for more than 12 years. Indeed, this code has many features that were specifically designed for just such specialized tasks, and is unique in this respect. Furthermore, SINDA is commonly used at the vehicle (integration) level; has a large user base both inside and outside the aerospace industry; has several graphical user interfaces, preprocessors, postprocessors; has strong links to CAD and structural tools; and has built-in optimization, data correlation, parametric analysis, reliability estimation, and robust design tools.
Nonetheless, the LHP community tends to ignore these capabilities, yearning instead for “simpler” methods. However, simple methods cannot meet the challenging needs of LHP modeling such as transient start-up and noncondensible gas (NCG) effects, are often hardware-specific or proprietary, or cannot be used in a vehicle-level analysis.
There are many reasons for this hesitancy to use SINDA/FLUINT as it was intended. First, hardware developers tend to be less versed in analytic methods than the user community they serve. Second, there are political hurdles, such as the fact that ESA contractors are required to use ESA sponsored software. Third, the state-of-the-art in LHPs is not so advanced that the analysts can be ignorant of the complex two-phase thermohydraulic and thermodynamic processes and phenomena involved, and unfortunately most thermal analysts are accustomed only to “dry” thermal control (radiation, conduction, etc.).
Fourth, the general-purpose and complete nature of SINDA/FLUINT tends to make it intimidating, especially in light of the third reason listed above. SINDA/FLUINT is not designed strictly for LHPs or even for LHP-like systems; it has been used for everything from nuclear reactor cooling to dynamic models of human hearts and tracheae. The user's manuals and standard training classes† rarely mention capillary phenomena because only a fraction of SINDA/FLUINT's users are thus inclined. It is to address this fourth reason that this paper has been written, since the authors can do little to redress the first three problems.
This paper summarizes the available modeling capabilities applicable to various LHP design and simulation tasks. Knowledge of LHPs is assumed.