Research

The Capillary Channel Flow Experiment

Moving fluids around in microgravity can be a challenge. On Earth we experience buoyancy and other gravitational effects that dominate how fluids move. In space, on the other hand, the only options are to move fluids mechanically with pumps or fans or to use capillary action. Even on earth, adhesive forces between a liquid and its solid container can draw fluids in narrow tubes upward against the force of gravity. In microgravity, this capillary flow can be even more effective. But the best way to study and understand this flow regime is to do so in space. The Capillary Channel Flow experiment and similar studies have allowed astronauts on the space station and researchers back on Earth to explore the effects of capillary action on microgravity fluid transport. The results will be used to improve propulsion systems, heat exchangers, and life support systems used in space. (Photo credits: NASA, M. Dreyer et al., and A. Agrawala; submitted by jshoer)

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