Check valves are traditionally designed as a simple poppet/spring system where the spring is designed to equal the force created from the sealing area of the valve seat multiplied by the cracking pressure. Since the valve seat diameter in these types of valves is relatively small (less than 0.5” diameter), a low cracking pressure required for back pressure relief devices results in a low spring preload. When sealing in the reverse direction, the typical 20 psid storage pressure of the cryogenic fluid is not enough pressure force to provide adequate sealing stress.

A cross-sectional view of the check valve.

To better control the cracking pressure and sealing force, a bellows mechanism was added to a poppet check valve. The bellows serves as a reference pressure gauge; once the targeted pressure differential is reached, the bellows compresses and snaps the valve open. Prior to reaching the desired crack pressure differential, the bellows diaphragm is fully expanded, providing sufficient seal forces to prevent valve flow (including reverse flow) and undesired internal leakage.

Room-temperature testing of cracking pressure, full flow pressure, and flow capacity all showed improvements. The overall results of the test proved to be 10 to 20 times greater than conventional check valves with no internal leakage at three different pressure differentials.

NASA is actively seeking licensees to commercialize this technology. Please contact Sammy A. Nabors at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 256-544-5226 to initiate licensing discussions. Follow this link here  for more information.