Microchannels and minichannels are being considered for high heat flux applications under microgravity environment in space missions. An experimental study is undertaken to determine the effect of gravitational orientation on flow boiling characteristics of water in a set of six parallel minichannels, each 1054 μm wide by 197 μm deep and 63.5 mm long with a hydraulic diameter of 333 μm. Three orientations — horizontal, vertical downflow and vertical upflow — are investigated under identical operating conditions of heat and mass fluxes. High-speed images are obtained to reveal the detailed two-phase flow structure and liquid-vapor interactions. The experimental data and high speed flow visualization indicate that compared to the horizontal case, the flow becomes less chaotic for vertical upflow, while the reversed flow becomes more pronounced in vertical downflow case. The resulting in increase in the back-flow is responsible for channel-to-channel flow maldistribution and heat transfer degradation. From the heat transfer data it is concluded that the performance of the tested channels under microgravity environment will be similar to the horizontal flow case.

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