A flat and flexible evaporator, which conforms to contoured surfaces, has been developed for loop heat pipe applications. A loop heat pipe (LHP) is a passive, two phase heat transfer device that uses a porous membrane in the evaporator to circulate fluid. A number of flexible membranes have been tested as evaporator wicks that have a length of 12.7 cm and heated area of 50.6 cm2. For cellulose, polyethylene, and blotting paper membranes, maximum heat fluxes of 0.43, 1.5 and 2.9 W/cm2 have been observed, respectively. The maximum heat transfer coefficients measured for these membranes are 551, 876, and 2100 W/m2-K, respectively. The best performance was observed by a membrane made of a fibrous cotton matrix, typically used as gauze. This material has a large pore size and high wettability with water. When tested in a rigid, brass evaporator, the maximum heat flux observed is 5.95 W/cm2, and the maximum heat transfer coefficient is 2865 W/m2-K. A flexible evaporator is fabricated using a heat sealable, flexible barrier pouch, and the cotton matrix membrane is sealed inside. The maximum measured heat flux for the flexible evaporator is 3.2 W/cm2 and maximum measured heat transfer coefficient is 1165 W/m2-K. The observed reduction in heat transfer as compared to the rigid evaporator is due to the poor contact between the evaporator and membrane. It is concluded that for the flexible evaporator membranes considered, the heat transfer mechanism is boiling and the maximum heat flux is limited by the wicking rate of the membrane. For a given membrane, the wicking rate increases with a reduction in the wicking length and decreases with an increasing rate of evaporation. To further improve the performance of the flexible evaporator, it is necessary to ensure efficient vapor removal from the evaporator as well as maintaining good contact between the membrane and the evaporator surface.

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