Cryogenic fuel is a major field of study for the aerospace and energy industries. Cryogenically cooling gaseous fuels such as hydrogen, oxygen, and methane, substantially decreases the required volume to store and transport an equivalent amount of energy in the gaseous state. In micro-gravity environments, the gas and liquid phases do not naturally separate, which means the system can not simply vent the boil-off gas. In a closed system like this, two-phase flow meters are even more critical to monitor fuel transfer to maximize the amount of fuel being transfer without reaching dangerous pressure levels. An accurate two-phase flow meter can not only help during live fuel transfer, but can also help in the study and research of fuel transfer processes.
The proposed innovation is a two-phase flow meter for monitoring cryogenic fuel boiling during tank to tank transfer using Electrical Capacitance Volume Tomography (ECVT). This innovation will leverage Tech4Imaging’s proprietary ECVT technology, an imaging modality originally developed for academic use, but later advanced by Tech4Imaging to operate in harsh environments and deliver real-time metrics such as velocity and mass flow rate of multi-phase flows.
The cryogenic two-phase flow meter will be designed as a spool piece which can be installed on the transfer lines between two cryogenic fuel tanks. Swage lock fittings are common in this application and can be integrated into the sensor design. A live signal output will be available for connecting to PLCs or other control systems as well as a digital display on the device.
In this Phase I, a feasibility will be established based on lab tests utilizing cryogenic fluids in controlled settings.
NASA can utilize the developed mass flow meter during ground tank to tank transfers. Additional uses in aerospace missions may include microgravity fuel transfer and engine chill down processes. Another application is the online gauging of fuel available in the tank during the operation of a mission. Such missions include, but are not limited to upper stages, ascent and descent stages, refueling elements or aggregation stages, nuclear thermal propulsion, and in-situ resource utilization.
Cryogenic fuels are a growing industry both in aerospace and in liquid natural gas (LNG) applications. Any application of cryogenic fuels will require a transfer of the fuel from tank to tank both at the factory and during operation. One major player in the aerospace industry has already reached out to Tech4Imaging to adopt the proposed cryogenic flow meter as soon as it is available.