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Evaporator Development for an Evaporative Heat Pipe SystemAs fossil fuel resources continue to deplete, research for alternate power sources continues to develop. One of these alternate technologies is fuel cells. They are a practical fuel source able to provide significant amounts of power for applications from laptops to automobiles and their only byproduct is water. However, although this technology is over a century old and NASA has been working with it since the early 1960 s there is still room for improvement. The research I am involved in at NASA's Glenn Research Center is focusing on what is called a regenerative fuel cell system. The unique characteristic of this type of system is that it used an outside power source to create electrolysis of the water it produces and it then reuses the hydrogen and oxygen to continue producing power. The advantage of this type of system is that, for example, on space missions it can use solar power to recharge its gas supplies between periods when the object being orbited blocks out the sun. This particular system however is far from completion. This is because of the many components that are required to make up a fuel cell that need to be tested individually. The specific part of the system that is being worked on this summer of 2004 is the cooling system. The fuel cell stack, that is the part that actually creates the power, also produces a lot of heat. When not properly cooled, it has been known to cause fires which, needless to say are not conducive to the type of power that is trying to be created. In order to cool the fuel cell stack in this system we are developing a heat pipe cooling system. One of the main components of a heat pipe cooling system is what is known as the evaporator, and that is what happens to be the part of the system we are developing this summer. In most heat pipe systems the evaporator is a tube in which the working fluid is cooled and then re-circulated through the system to absorb more heat energy from the fuel cell stack. For this system, instead of a tube, the evaporator is made up of a stack-up of screen material and absorbent membranes inside a stainless steel shell and held together by a film adhesive and epoxy. There is an initial design for this flat plate evaporator, however is has not yet been made. The components of the stack-up are known, so all testing is focused on how it will all go together. This includes finding an appropriate epoxy to make the evaporator conductive all the way through and finding a way to hold the required tight tolerances as the stainless steel outer shell is put together. By doing the tests on smaller samples of the stack-ups and then testing the fill size component, the final flat plate evaporator will reach its final design so that research can continue on other parts of the regenerative fue1 cell system, and another step in the improvement of fue1 cell technology can be made.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Document Type
Peters, Leigh C.
(Case Western Reserve Univ. United States)
Date Acquired
August 23, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2004
Publication Information
Publication: Research Symposium I
Subject Category
Mechanical Engineering
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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