To improve the understanding of convective melting of packed solid particles in a fluid, an experimental investigation is conducted to study the melting characteristics of a packed bed by unmasking the buoyancy forces due to the density difference between the melt and solid particles. A close-loop apparatus, named the particle-melting-in-flow (PMF) module, is designed to allow a steady-state liquid flow at a specified temperature. The module is installed onboard NASA’s KC-135 reduced gravity aircraft using ice particles of desired sizes and water as the test media. Experimentally determined melting rates are presented as a function of upstream flow velocity, temperature and initial average particle size of the packed bed. It is found that the melting rate is influenced mainly by the ratio of the Reynolds number (Re, based on the initial particle diameter) to the square of the Froude number (Fr), and the Stefan number (Ste). In general, the dimensionless melting rate decreases as Re/Fr2 increases and increases as Ste increases. With the absence of gravity, i.e., as the Froude number approaches infinity, a maximum melting rate can be achieved. The increase in the melting rate proportional to the Stefan number also becomes more pronounced under the zero gravity condition. The trend of average and local Nusselt number of the melting packed bed under microgravity, as a function of Reynolds number and Prandtl number, is discussed and compared with the case of nonmelting packed bed.

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