New Hydrophilic, Composite Membranes for Air Removal from Water Coolant Systems 2004-01-2427
Liquid coolants are commonly used as thermal transport media to increase efficiency and flexibility in aerospace vehicle design. The introduction of gas bubbles into the coolant can have negative consequences, including: loss of centrifugal pump prime, irregular sensor readings, and blockage of coolant flow to remote systems. One solution to mitigate these problems is the development of a passive gas removal device, or gas trap, installed in the flight cooling system. In this study, a new hydrophilic, composite membrane has been developed for passage of the coolant fluid and retention of gas bubbles. The trapped bubbles are subsequently vented from the system by a thin, hydrophobic, microporous membrane. The original design for this work employed a homogeneous membrane that was susceptible to fouling and pore plugging. Spare gas traps of this variety have degraded during storage, and recreation of the membranes has been complicated due to problems with polymer duplication and property variations in the final membranes. In this work, replacements have been developed based on deposition of a hydrophilic polymer on the bore-side of a porous polyethylene (PE) tube. The tube provides excellent chemical and mechanical stability, and the hydrophilic layer provides for retention of gas bubbles due to elevated bubble pressure. Preliminary results have shown that intimate contact is required between the deposited layer and the substrate to overcome surface energy differences that reduce good adhesion. This has been accomplished by presoaking the membrane tube in the solvent to raise its surface energy. Polymer solutions of various concentrations have been used to promote penetration of the polymer layer into the porous substrate and to control separation layer thickness. The resulting composite membranes have shown repeatable decrease in nitrogen permeability, which is indicative of a decrease in membrane pore size. Studies with water permeation have yielded similar results. We have observed some swelling of the added polymer layer, which causes a slight decrease in membrane pore size, and should result in improved bubble retention.
Preliminary studies have also been performed on gas retention in flowing systems. Initial results have been promising, with negligible gas permeation for the coated membranes compared to 100% gas permeation in the uncoated tube.