A University of New Mexico professor is leading a NASA project that will develop a more efficient method of cooling that relies on electromagnetic fields instead of moving parts and is believed to be well-suited for a zero-gravity environment, such as space.

The proposal, titled “Efficient Microgravity Heat and Mass Transfer with No Moving Parts,” is being funded by the NASA EPSCoR (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) Program Office. The three-year project began May 1.

The principal investigator is Peter Vorobieff, professor of mechanical engineering at UNM. He is working with Paulo Oemig of the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium based at New Mexico State University, who is the designated NASA ESPCoR director on the project.

The new device will allow for a more efficient way of transporting heat in microgravity, Vorobieff said. Unlike a traditional pump used to transport liquid for cooling and heat transfer, this new method does not employ any moving parts — which can wear out and need maintenance — and requires only a modest power supply, so it is potentially superior to current heat-transfer methods in extreme environments like space.

This design will instead use a magnetic field to move liquid around.

“This method has been tested extensively on Earth, and there is strong evidence that it should work even better in microgravity environments,” Vorobieff said.

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