A water membrane evaporator (WME) has been conceived and tested at Johnson Space Center as an alternative to the contamination-sensitive and corrosion-prone evaporators currently used for dissipating heat from space vehicles.

A water membrane evaporator (WME) has been conceived and tested as an alternative to the contamination-sensitive and corrosion-prone evaporators currently used for dissipating heat from space vehicles. The WME consists mainly of the following components:

  • An outer stainless-steel screen that provides structural support for the components mentioned next;
  • Inside and in contact with the stainless-steel screen, a hydrophobic membrane that is permeable to water vapor;
  • Inside and in contact with the hydrophobic membrane, a hydrophilic membrane that transports the liquid feedwater to the inner surface of the hydrophobic membrane;
  • Inside and in contact with the hydrophilic membrane, an annular array of tubes through which flows the spacecraft coolant carrying the heat to be dissipated; and
  • An inner exclusion tube that limits the volume of feedwater in the WME.

In operation, a pressurized feedwater reservoir is connected to the volume between the exclusion tube and the coolant tubes. Feedwater fills the volume, saturates the hydrophilic membrane, and is retained by the hydrophobic membrane. The outside of the WME is exposed to space vacuum. Heat from the spacecraft coolant is conducted through the tube walls and the water-saturated hydrophilic membrane to the liquid/vapor interface at the hydrophobic membrane, causing water to evaporate to space. Makeup water flows into the hydrophilic membrane through gaps between the coolant tubes.

This work was done by Eugene K. Ungar of Johnson Space Center and Jay C. Almlie of Hernandez Engineering. For further information, contact the JSC Innovation Partnerships Office at (281) 483-3809. MSC-23250-1