A proposed device would remove bubbles of gas from a stream of liquid (typically water), accumulate the gas, and periodically release the gas, in bulk, back into the stream. The device is intended for use in a flow system (1) in which there is a requirement to supply bubble-free water to a downstream subsystem and (2) that includes a sensor and valves, just upstream of the subsystem, for sensing bubbles and diverting the flow from the subsystem until the water stream is again free of bubbles. By coalescing the gas bubbles and then periodically releasing the accumulated gas, the proposed device would not contribute to net removal of gas from the liquid stream; nevertheless, it would afford an advantage by reducing the frequency with which the diverter valves would have to be activated.

Gas From Trapped Bubbles Would Accumulate in the head space in this vessel until the water level fell below the lower hydrophilic membrane. Then the relief valve would open, releasing the gas and water to the outlet.

The device (see figure) would include an upper and a lower porous membrane made of a hydrophilic material. Both membranes would cover openings in a tube leading to an outlet. These membranes would allow water, but not gas bubbles, to pass through to the interior of the tube. Inside the tube, between the two membranes, there would be a flow restrictor that would play a role described below. Below both membranes there would be a relief valve.

Water, possibly containing bubbles, would enter from the top and would pass through either the lower membrane or both membranes, depending how much gas had been accumulated thus far. When the volume of accumulated gas was sufficient to push the top surface of the liquid below the lower porous membrane, water could no longer flow through either membrane toward the outlet. This blockage would cause an increase in back pressure that would cause the relief valve to open. The opening of the relief valve would allow both the water and the bulk-accumulated gas to pass through to the outlet. Once the gas had been pushed out, water would once again flow through both membranes at a much lower pressure drop. The flow restrictor would maintain enough pressure drop to keep the relief valve open until gas had been cleared from both hydrophilic membranes.

This work was done by Donald Layne Carter and Donald W. Holder of Marshall Space Flight Center and Edward W. O’Connor of Hamilton Sundstrand. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Mechanics category. MFS-31930

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the February, 2006 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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