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Fluid dynamics, Microfluidics, Capillarity, Reduced gravity environments, Contact angle


In the reduced acceleration environment aboard orbiting spacecraft, capillary forces are often exploited to access and control the location and stability of fuels, propellants, coolants, and biological liquids in containers (tanks) for life support. To access the ‘far reaches’ of such tanks, the passive capillary pumping mechanism of interior corner networks can be employed to achieve high levels of draining. With knowledge of maximal corner drain rates, gas ingestion can be avoided and accurate drain transients predicted. In this paper, we benchmark a numerical method for the symmetric draining of capillary liquids in simple interior corners. The free surface is modeled through a volume of fluid (VOF) algorithm via interFoam, a native OpenFOAM solver. The simulations are compared with rare space experiments conducted on the International Space Station. The results are also buttressed by simplified analytical predictions where practicable. The fact that the numerical model does well in all cases is encouraging for further spacecraft tank draining applications of significantly increased geometric complexity and fluid inertia.


© The Author(s). 2020

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