Hypersonic flight with hydrocarbon-fueled airbreathing propulsion requires sharp leading edges. This generates high temperatures at the leading edge surface, which cannot be sustained by most materials. By integrating a planar heat pipe into the structure of the leading edge, the heat can be conducted to large flat surfaces from which it can be radiated out to the environment, significantly reducing the temperatures at the leading edge and making metals feasible materials. This paper describes a method by which the leading edge thermal boundary conditions can be ascertained from standard hypersonic correlations, and then uses these boundary conditions along with a set of analytical approximations to predict the behavior of a planar leading edge heat pipe. The analytical predictions of the thermostructural performance are verified by finite element calculations. Given the results of the analysis, possible heat pipe fluid systems are assessed, and their applicability to the relevant conditions determined. The results indicate that the niobium alloy Cb-752, with lithium as the working fluid, is a feasible combination for Mach 6–8 flight with a 3 mm leading edge radius.
Feasibility of Metallic Structural Heat Pipes as Sharp Leading Edges for Hypersonic Vehicles
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Steeves, C. A., He, M. Y., Kasen, S. D., Valdevit, L., Wadley, H. N. G., and Evans, A. G. (March 13, 2009). "Feasibility of Metallic Structural Heat Pipes as Sharp Leading Edges for Hypersonic Vehicles." ASME. J. Appl. Mech. May 2009; 76(3): 031014. https://doi.org/10.1115/1.3086440
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