Abstract

Oscillating Heat Pipes (OHPs) are unique two-phase heat transfer devices with many advantages over standard and more widely adopted thermal control devices. Specifically, OHPs are able to operate passively, over a wide temperature range, and under high heat fluxes, with few design constraints. OHPs operate based on the process of evaporating and condensing a working fluid on opposite ends of a series of serpentine channels. The pressure difference causes an oscillating behavior of the fluid to travel along the direction of the channels enabling a high heat transfer rate. The capability of this technology has garnered much attention and interest for a variety of applications in different fields. While as a thermal management device, OHP technology shows much promise, there is still much to be understood about the fundamental principles of its operation. One of the most important aspects of OHP operation that is still not well understood is the phenomena known as “start-up”. Start-up is when the proper conditions of an OHP are created such that the operating, oscillatory process of an OHP is enabled to begin. In this work, experimental testing is performed to investigate the relationship between evaporator and condenser length on OHP start-up. In this study, combinations of small, medium, and large length evaporators and condensers were used on a 42-turn OHP with 1 mm square channels, charged with R134a to 50% fill ratio with the goal to quantify the minimum heat that would initiate start-up. Before this test could be performed, issues in consistency of the start-up of OHP had to be resolved. A method to “reset” the liquid-vapor distribution to overcome any adverse history from previous OHP operation developed is discussed. Then, a zero-heat input method of confirming a liquid-vapor distribution favorable to start-up is outlined. After developing this method to achieve a consistent start-up heat input in the OHP, tests were performed for nine different configurations of large, medium, and small evaporator and condensers, to determine their relationship with the minimum heat required to start-up an OHP. It was observed that both the size of the evaporator and condenser both influence the start-up heat load. That is, a large condenser and evaporator can reduce the heat load required to start-up. Additionally, the size of a condenser is much more influential than the size of the evaporator. The overarching discovery is that the process of start-up relies heavily on the history of the OHP i.e., the initial liquid-vapor distribution of the working fluid in the channels. In measuring start-up, it is important to recognize and address how the current state of the OHP can lead to inconsistent results.

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