The heat pipe startup process is described physically and is divided into five periods for convenience of analysis. The literature survey revealed that none of the previous attempts to simulate the heat pipe startup process numerically were successful, since the rarefied vapor flow in the heat pipe was not considered. Therefore, a rarefied vapor self-diffusion model is proposed, and the early startup periods, in which the rarefied vapor flow is dominant within the heat pipe, are first simulated numerically. The numerical results show that large vapor density gradients existed along the heat pipe length, and the vapor flow reaches supersonic velocities when the density is extremely low. The numerical results are compared with the experimental data of the early startup period with good agreement.

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