Wick structures fabricated by machining of titanium porous material are essential components of lightweight titanium/ water heat pipes of a type now being developed for operation at temperatures up to 530 K in high-radiation environments. In the fabrication of some prior heat pipes, wicks have been made by extruding axial grooves into aluminum — unfortunately, titanium cannot be extruded. In the fabrication of some other prior heat pipes, wicks have been made by in-situ sintering of metal powders shaped by the use of forming mandrels that are subsequently removed, but in the specific application that gave rise to the present fabrication method, the required dimensions and shapes of the heat-pipe structures would make it very difficult if not impossible to remove the mandrels due to the length and the small diameter.

Machined Titanium Heat Pipe Wick Structure is shown in cross section.
In the present method, a wick is made from one or more sections that are fabricated separately and assembled outside the tube that constitutes the outer heat-pipe wall. The starting wick material is a slab of porous titanium material. This material is machined in its original flat configuration to form axial grooves. In addition, interlocking features are machined at the mating ends of short wick sections that are to be assembled to make a full-length continuous wick structure. Once the sections have been thus assembled, the resulting full-length flat wick structure is rolled into a cylindrical shape and inserted in the heat-pipe tube (see figure).

This wick-structure fabrication method is not limited to titanium/water heat pipes: It could be extended to other heat pipe materials and working fluids in which the wicks could be made from materials that could be pre-formed into porous slabs.

This work was done by John H. Rosenfeld, Kenneth G. Minnerly, and Nelson J. Gernert of Thermacore Inc. for Glenn Research Center.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to NASA Glenn Research Center, Innovative Partnerships Office, Attn: Steve Fedor, Mail Stop 4–8, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135. Refer to LEW- 18206-1.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the January, 2009 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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