Performance assessment of a three-dimensional printed porous media produced by selective laser melting technology for the optimization of loop heat pipe wicks
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The primary wick in a loop heat pipe device is a key component that is central to the operation of the device. Both high permeability and capillary pumping capacity, two properties highly dependent on wick structure, are strongly desirable for a satisfactory thermal performance. In this paper, selective laser melting (SLM), a three-dimensional (3D) printing technology, is used to create a primary wick for an 80 W heat transfer application. The permeability and capillarity values of this wick, experimentally measured, are compared with those built with the most widely used technologies nowadays, such as powder sintering and meshes. In this study, the SLM scaffold is shown to satisfy the minimum values required by the application in terms of capillarity and permeability: 0.031 mm/s and 4 × 10−12 m2, respectively. Our comparative study revealed that the wick produced with the SLM technology presented higher values of permeability, by two orders of magnitude, and slightly higher capillary figures than those corresponding to powder sintering for such application. However, it had capillary values well below those of a stainless-steel mesh. The hydraulic behavior of the SLM wick was better than that of the sintered copper powder, because it not only met the above-mentioned specifications, but it also improved its performance.
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