Thermoconvectional phenomena induced by vibrations in supercritical SF6 under weightlessness

Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys. 2007 May;75(5 Pt 2):056317. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevE.75.056317. Epub 2007 May 31.


The effect of a linear harmonic vibration on heat propagation is investigated in near-critical SF6 under weightlessness conditions in space. Heat was issued from a pointlike source (thermistor), a situation representative of an industrial use of pressurized supercritical fluid storage. Two kinds of vibrations were used, large amplitude (64 mm) at 0.2 Hz and low amplitude (0.8 mm) at 1.6 Hz, with temperatures from 5 K to 20 mK from the critical temperature. The vibrations are seen to strongly affect the evolution and shape of the hot boundary layer (HBL), the heat exchange between the heat source and the fluid, and the bulk thermalization process by the adiabatic piston-effect process. The HBL is initially convected as symmetrical plumes over a distance that only depends on the vibration velocity and which corresponds to a Rayleigh-Bénard-like instability where the vibration acceleration acts as the earth gravity. Then the extremities of the plumes are convected perpendicularly to the direction of oscillation as two "pancakes," a process encountered in the vibrational Rayleigh-Bénard instability. When the vibration velocity is small, only one pancake centered at the hot source is observed. Temperature evolutions of the hot source and the fluid are studied in different locations. Convection flows and adiabatic piston effect compete to determine the thermal dynamics, with the latter being the most efficient near the critical point. The experimental results are compared with a two-dimensional numerical simulation that highlights the similarities and differences between the very compressible van der Waals gas and an ideal gas.