Zero Boil-Off Tank (ZBOT) - 11.22.16

Overview | Description | Applications | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Rocket fuel, spacecraft heating and cooling systems, and sensitive scientific instruments rely on very cold cryogenic fluids. Heat from the environment around cryogenic tanks can cause their pressures to rise, which requires dumping or “boiling off” fluid to release the excess pressure, or actively cooling the tanks in some way. Zero Boil-Off Tank (ZBOT) uses an experimental fluid to test active heat removal and forced jet mixing as alternative means for controlling tank pressure for volatile fluids.
Science Results for Everyone
Information Pending

The following content was provided by William A. Sheredy, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details

OpNom: Zero Boil-Off Tank

Principal Investigator(s)
Mohammad Kassemi, Ph.D., National Center for Space Exploration Research, Cleveland, OH, United States

David Chato, Ph.D., Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH, United States

NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH, United States
National Center for Space Exploration Research, Cleveland, OH, United States
ZIN Technologies Incorporated, Cleveland, OH, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
NASA Research Office - Space Life and Physical Sciences (NASA Research-SLPS)

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration
September 2015 - March 2016; March 2016 - February 2017; March 2017 - September 2017

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
Information Pending

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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Cryogenic propellants are rocket fuels that are stored as liquids at very cold temperatures. However, because they are kept at such cold temperatures, heat from the surrounding environment evaporates the liquid in the tank into vapor causing the pressure in the tank to rise. In order to limit the pressure from increasing to a catastrophic level that can rupture the tank, several techniques may be used to keep the pressure manageable.
  • One technique is venting or dumping fluid overboard to relieve the excess pressure resulting in the loss of the volatile fluid. Actively cooling the tank contents by circulating a portion of the tank contents through a system that absorbs the heat from the liquid. This is a vent-less technique that does not lose cryogenic fluid by using active cooling.
  • Another technique is dynamic pressure control, another vent-less technology that mixes the bulk liquid with or without active cooling. Both tank pressurization and pressure control are governed by interactions among the forced mixing, and the condensation and evaporation process at the vapor-liquid interface.
  • Because gravity plays a significant role in the motion and position of the vapor and liquid phases, a dynamic pressure control system for space applications cannot be accomplished solely based on analysis and computational models, especially since there is a lack of relevant microgravity data.
  • Since a large scale test in space is costly and the type of instrumentation and sensors that are suitable for use with liquid cryogens are limited, small scale ground based and microgravity experiments using simulant fluids are needed to understand the underlying physical phenomena influencing tank pressurization in space and then to optimize and scale up the pressure control method for microgravity storage.
  • This investigation performs both normal gravity and microgravity small-scale experiments on earth and aboard the ISS, respectively, to gather relevant data, and uses the 1g and microgravity experimental data to validate numerical models to optimize design of scaled-up pressure controlled storage systems.
  • Relevant microgravity data are benchmarked to verify and validate computational fluid dynamic (CFD) models for fluid tank pressurization. These models can be used to design future, larger storage tanks of highly volatile liquids, such as cryogenic propellants. This research ultimately reduces the risk and costs of future space expeditions.


  • ZBOT addresses some of the limitations of previous experimental efforts including definition of initial and boundary conditions, long-term experiments that permit comparisons with thermodynamic models, and point-wise and field measurements of temperatures and fluid velocities for numerical validation.
  • ZBOT investigates the role of transport and phase change phenomena on stratification, pressurization, and pressure control of a volatile fluid, Perfluoro-normal-Pentane (P-n-P).
  • Comprehensive ground based and microgravity tests are conducted to study the effects of heat flux, fill level, and mixing on thermal stratification, pressurization and pressure control. • Development of a state-of-the-art two phase CFD model for the storage tank to aid future scale-up tank pressure control designs.
  • Development of a multi-zonal thermodynamic model for the storage tank for quick and efficient engineering analysis.
  • Validation and Verification of the models by the acquired ground based and microgravity data.
  • Both the experimental data and modeling efforts are used as benchmarks for designing tanks for the long-term storage of cryogenic liquids.

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Space Applications
Long-term storage of cryogenic fluids is necessary for spacecraft propulsion and life support. Scientific sensors aboard space telescopes and other space probes also require operation at cryogenic temperatures, but can only work as long as the cryogenic fluids last. ZBOT carries out small-scale microgravity tests to enable further research for lightweight, efficient and long-duration cryogenic storage in space.

Earth Applications
Cryogenic tanks require complicated storage and flow solutions for fluids that act as both liquid and gas, depending on their temperatures. ZBOT investigates the role of phase change physics and heat transport on the pressure control of these volatile fluids. Results from the investigation improve models used to design tanks for long-term cryogenic liquid storage, which are essential in biotechnology, medicine, industrial, and many other applications on Earth.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols

The ZBOT test points are performed at three different fill levels: 70%, 80%, and 90%. The test tank is launched at a fill level of 70%. Particles are then injected into the fluid. The test fluid, P-n-P, is pre-conditioned to a nominal starting point temperature prior to each test. Tests fall into three categories: jet-mixing, subcooled jet mixing, and self-pressurization tests. Once tests are completed, the Fluid Reservoir are used to increase the fluid level in the test to the 80% and 90%. Dissolved gas are removed from the test fluid after each fill adjustment. Also, additional particles are injected to the fluid adjustment. There are a total of 52 test points, 23 each at the 70% and 90% fill levels, and 6 test points at the 80% fill level. Data are downlinked periodically. Return of the hardware is not required for data retrieval.

On-orbit procedures cover the installation of the hardware into the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG). During installation the crew must evacuate air from hoses and fill the water loop. The hoses are evacuated using the Microgravity Science Glovebox vacuum exhaust system (MSG VES). The water loop is filled from the ZBOT Water Reservoir. After the hardware is installed, the crew inject particles into the Test Section between 3-5 times. Experimental runs are controlled from the ground.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Applied Physical Science in Space AP1
Applied Physical Science in Space AP2
Translation to Space Exploration Systems TSES2

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Results Publications

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Ground Based Results Publications

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ISS Patents

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Related Publications

    Barsi SJ, Kassemi M.  Investigation of tank pressurization and pressure control—Part I: experimental study. Journal of Thermal Science and Engineering Applications. 2013 September 27; 5(4): 041005. DOI: 10.1115/1.4023891.

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Related Websites

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image Schematic of the Transparent Test Cell and the ISS Glove Box. (NASA Glenn Research Center Image)
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image Particle Image Velocimery (PIV) System for Flow Visualization and Measurement. (NASA Glenn Research Center)
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