Two-phase passive heat transport devices such as vapor chambers, loop heat pipes, and capillary pumped loops utilize porous evaporators for phase change and to drive fluid transport. Nucleate boiling can occur within such capillary-fed porous evaporators, especially under high-heat-flux operation, as has been visually observed in various experimental studies in the literature. However, prior modeling efforts have typically only considered single-phase flow of liquid through a completely saturated porous medium for characterizing the dryout limit and thermal performance. The present work offers a new semi-empirical model for prediction of thermal resistance and dryout during boiling in capillary-fed evaporators. Thermal conduction across the solid and volumetric evaporation within the pores are solved to obtain the temperature distribution in the porous structure. Capillary-driven lateral liquid flow from the outer periphery of the evaporator to its center, with vapor flow across the thickness, is considered to obtain the local liquid and vapor pressures. The capillary pressure and the relative permeabilities (fraction of single-phase permeabilities) for two-phase flow in the porous medium are modeled as a function of the local liquid saturation. The heat flux at which the liquid saturation at the center of the evaporator becomes zero is defined as the dryout limit of the evaporator. Experiments are conducted on sintered copper particle evaporators of different particle sizes and heater areas to collect data for model calibration. To demonstrate the wider applicability of the model for other types of porous evaporators, the model is further calibrated against a variety of dryout limit and thermal resistance data collected from the literature. The model is shown to predict the experimentally observed trends in the dryout limit with mean particle/pore size, heater size, and evaporator thicknesses.

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S. Sudhakar, J. A. Weibel, and S. V. Garimella, A semi-empirical model for thermal resistance and dryout during boiling in thin porous evaporators fed by capillary action, International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer 181, p. 121887, 2021.