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Constrained Vapor Bubble (CVB)

CVB Status

June 2010 - Two of the four Constrained Vapor Bubble (CVB) science modules were returned from ISS on ULF-4 on May 26, 2010.  The 30mm pentane and the dry calibration modules will be used for additional ground testing for the science investigation team.  This experiment is expected to produce multiple scientific journal articles.

May 2010 - The STS-132, ULF-4, is scheduled to return two of the completed CVB modules on May 26.  The 30mm Pentane and the Dry calibration/control modules have successfully complete science operations and will be used to verify preflight ground testing.  To date three journal articles are planned for these results.  The 30mm module may be refurbished with a mixed fluid to be a reflight experiment in 2012.

* The Constrained Vapor Bubble (CVB) 40 mm dry module was operated on the International Space Station (ISS) from April 26 to April 30, 2010.  In the approximately 112 hours of operation, all the science objectives were fulfilled.  The original test matrix was completed and an additional run was performed giving us excellent calibration characteristics.

April 2010 - The Constrained Vapor Bubble (CVB) 30-mm Pentane module was removed from the Light Microscopy Module (LMM) on April 16, 2010 and replaced with the Dry Calibration/Control Module.  Operations will continue with the Dry Module on April 26, 2010.  Both the 30 mm and dry module will be returned on ULF-4 in August 2010.  Below is an image from the video downlink.

CVB module installation
CVB Module Installation

Fluids Integrated Rack/Light Microscopy Module/Constrained Vapor Bubble (FIR/LMM/CVB) operations are on-going through day 091.  We have completed over 90% of the extended test matrix.  We are presently collecting data by holding the heater temperature constant and changing (raising) the cooler temperature.  We have also collected video data of lateral oscillations. We are looking forward to starting operations with the dry/calibration module.


The use of interfacial free energy gradients to control fluid flow naturally leads to simpler and lighter heat transfer systems because of the absence of mechanical pumps. Therefore, “passive” engineering systems based on this principle are ideal candidates for the space program. In this context, “passive” refers to the natural pressure field for fluid flow due to changes in the intermolecular force field under an imposed nonisothermal temperature field. This force field is a function of the shape, temperature, and composition of the system. For example, heat pipes which rely on these forces have been proposed frequently to optimize heat transfer under microgravity conditions. However, the basic thermophysical principles controlling these systems are not well understood and, as a result, they have under performed. In general, the full potential of interfacial forces has not been realized in transport phenomena.

CVB diagram

Therefore, the basic experimental and theoretical studies of the constrained vapor bubble (CVB) under microgravity conditions to help remedy this undesirable situation. The proposed use of a transparent glass cell and related optical measurements will increase the understanding of transport systems controlled by interfacial phenomena because the system is viewed directly. Relatively large systems with high heat fluxes and small capillary pressure levels set in the condenser will be emphasized.

In particular, we are concerned with the experimental study of the CVB for a completely wetting system, the liquid will coat all the walls of the chamber.  Since in microgravity the bubble will tend to travel in the middle of the constraining “pipe”.

The first CVB flight unit is presently under construction (March 2007).  Five flight units will be launched with LMM on ULF 1.  With the following samples:

  • Pentane Cell 1:  bubble length of 20 mm ±5% at 20°C
  • Pentane Cell 2:  bubble length of 30 mm ±5% at 20°C
  • Pentane Cell 3:  bubble length of 40 mm ±5% at 20°C
  • Ethanol Cell 4:   bubble length of 25 mm ±5% at 20°C
  • Dry cell:  evacuated to 5 torr


LMM/CVB Qualification Model #2
LMM/CVB Qualification Model #2


Contacts at NASA Glenn Research Center
Project Manager:Ronald J. Sicker, NASA GRC
Project Scientist: Dr. David F. Chao, NASA GRC
Principal Investigator: Prof. Peter C. Wayner, Jr., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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LMM/CVB Related Documents
small acrobat icon   LMM Overview Chart
small acrobat icon   CVB Overview Chart
small acrobat icon   LMM-CVB Short Overview Presentation
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