OIL AND WATER, FRIEND OR FOE IN SPACE: INTERACTIONS AND WETTABILITY OF WATER-IMMISCIBLE HYDROCARBON FLUIDS WITH THERMOPLASTICS AND METALS IN MICROGRAVITY
Mary Bessell1, Corey Edwards2, Richard Kidd3, Evan Neidholdt3, Audrey Webb2, Murray Darrach3.
1Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, Los Angeles, CA, 2Gadsden State Community College, Gadsden, AL, 3Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA.
Observing interactions between immiscible hydrocarbon fluids and their wettability with thermoplastics and metals in microgravity is essential to the development of more efficient water processing systems on board the International Space Station (ISS) and deep space human exploration spacecrafts. In 2013, a NanoLab module was designed to serve as the housing for qualitative analysis of water-immiscible fluids and their wettability with certain materials onboard the ISS. However, the module was destroyed during the failed launch of the Orbital Sciences CRS Flight 3 (Orb-3) in October 2014. The module has been redesigned with the capability of obtaining higher-resolution images of the interaction between silicone oil and copper-sulfate-dyed water and their wettability with polyetheretherketone, ULTEM 9085, Teflon, stainless steel, and titanium. In 2016, SpaceX is scheduled to transport the flight-ready NanoLab module to the ISS where it will be inserted into a NanoRacks platform. Afterwards, both fluids, the 3 thermoplastics, and the 2 metals will be agitated for 3 seconds. One image every 20 seconds will be taken for 30 days. It is predicted that, without gravity, such fluids should form random clumps rather than a uniform layer. Additionally, varying interactions between silicone oil or copper-sulfate-dyed water with one of the materials will occur which may cause a repulsion between the fluid and material, revealing wettability. After 30 days onboard the ISS, the Soyuz capsule will return the NanoLab module to Earth where the recorded images are expected to reflect the predicted interactions and provide additional insight for better water processing system designs.