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NASA Technical Report


In order to enhance the fundamental understanding of thin film evaporation and thereby improve the critical design concept for two-phase heat transfer devices, microscale heat and mass transport is to be investigated for the transition film region using state-of-the-art optical diagnostic techniques. By utilizing a microgravity environment, the length scales of the transition film region can be extended sufficiently, from submicron to micron, to probe and measure the microscale transport fields which are affected by intermolecular forces. Extension of the thin film dimensions under microgravity will be achieved by using a conical evaporator made of a thin silicon substrate under which concentric and individually controlled micro-heaters are vapor-deposited to maintain either a constant surface temperature or a controlled temperature variation. Local heat transfer rates, required to maintain the desired wall temperature boundary condition, will be measured and recorded by the concentric thermoresistance heaters controlled by a Wheatstone bridge circuit, The proposed experiment employs a novel technique to maintain a constant liquid volume and liquid pressure in the capillary region of the evaporating meniscus so as to maintain quasi-stationary conditions during measurements on the transition film region.

Alternating use of Fizeau interferometry via white and monochromatic light sources will measure the thin film slope and thickness variation, respectively. Molecular Fluorescence Tracking Velocimetry (MFTV), utilizing caged fluorophores of approximately 10-nm in size as seeding particles, will be used to measure the velocity profiles in the thin film region. An optical sectioning technique using confocal microscopy will allow submicron depthwise resolution for the velocity measurements within the film for thicknesses on the order of a few microns. Digital analysis of the fluorescence image-displacement PDFs, as described in the main proposal, can further enhance the depthwise resolution.

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