Pump Application using Pulsed Electromagnets for Liquid reLocation (PAPELL) - 02.28.18

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

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Pump Application using Pulsed Electromagnets for Liquid reLocation (PAPELL) examines the behavior of special magnetic fluid transport systems to determine how these systems perform in space. This magnetic fluid systems uses magnets and fluids with suspended small iron-oxide particles, known as ferrofluids, to perform pumping and other transportation tasks that are particularly important in the design of next-generation space vehicles. PAPELL uses cameras and other automated equipment to monitor exactly how ferrofluids travel across grids of electromagnets and through pipes when manipulated with an electromagnetic field under a range of different conditions.
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The following content was provided by Manfred Ehresmann, M.S., and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Experiment Details


Principal Investigator(s)
Franziska Hild, KSat e.V., Stuttgart, Germany
Manfred Ehresmann, M.S., Institute of Space Systems, Stuttgart, Germany
Kira Grunwald, KSat e.V, Stuttgart, Germany

Saskia Sutterlin, KSat e.V., Stuttgart, Germany
Nicolas Heinz, KSat e.V., Stuttgart, Germany
Sinan Alp Aslan, KSat e.V., Stuttgart, Germany
Florian Grabi, KSat e.V., Stuttgart, Germany
Moritz Sauer, KSat e.V., Stuttgart, Germany
Robin Schweigert, KSat e.V., Stuttgart, Germany

Institute of Space Systems, University of Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
National Laboratory (NL)

Research Benefits
Information Pending

ISS Expedition Duration

Expeditions Assigned

Previous Missions
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Experiment Description

Research Overview

  • Pump Application using Pulsed Electromagnets for Liquid reLocation (PAPELL) examines the use of ferrofluids and electromagnets to create a fluid transportation mechanism that functions without any mechanical components.
  • Ferrofluid examinations include the movement over an electromagnet grid, drop splitting and merging, mass flow control, convective cooling, movement in a pipe system, and alternated directing of individual droplets.
  • The investigation also examines the injection and transportation of secondary bodies and analyzes the sorting and extraction of these.
  • PAPELL contributes to the development of a low wear, low noise level, low vibration and low maintenance pumping system that can improve the performance and expected lifetime of satellites, space stations and space telescopes.


The Pump Application using Pulsed Electromagnets for Liquid reLocation (PAPELL) research exploits magnetizing ferrofluids by a sufficiently strong magnetic field, causing fluids to move toward the source of the magnetic field.
The first stage of the experiment tests basic pumping functionality. A single electromagnet draws fluid from a provided reservoir. Cameras placed on an opposing wall of the NanoLab container, monitor the process with perpendicular view on the scene. The second stage tests demonstrate the transportation capability of ferrofluid as a working medium. In Experimental Area 1 the ferromagnetic liquid flows on a grid of electromagnets, a tubeless test system. The volume of ferrofluid movement is constrained by a transparent cover above the electromagnet grid plane. Individual fluid droplets are manoeuvrable and manipulated inside the volume, and monitored by the aforementioned camera. Inside Experimental Area 2, a tubular system, tests are performed on heat dissipation abilities and solid body transportation. Also, the simultaneous transportation of different bodies through a single pipe are tested. A branch in the tubular system allows for the separation and selection of different secondary bodies in the fluid stream. For this, a solid sphere injector concept has been developed, which consists of a spring-loaded reservoir and a rotating disc. A second camera, with a perpendicular viewing angle on the scene, monitors transportation processes.
A microcontroller switches the electromagnets. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) provide proper lighting conditions for the cameras. Photometric data constitutes the bulk of records. Fluid transport speed, viscosity, droplet size, flow behavior and surface interaction with walls and solids are extracted. The separation of transported bodies from the ferrofluid stream is especially of interest for the investigation. Occurring magnetic field strengths outside the ferrofluid are quantified by at least one magnetometer; this is used to determine the electromagnetic compatibility for future applications where no or only limited magnetic shielding is available.
Multiple operating modes at different component temperatures record power consumption of the pumping mechanism. The ferrofluid behavior is recorded as vital parameter for evaluation for further space application. For the same reason, temperature of the hardware and the ferrofluid are monitored by using thermometers integrated in used components and by placing resistance temperature detectors on strategically selected locations inside the experiment containment.
The ferrofluid pump is assumed to be less noisy than other pump mechanisms. The total noise volume during operation is monitored while the volume level without operation is used as reference. As generation of minor vibrations throughout the experiment is expected, measurements of vibrations in resting and in operation mode are taken. A small surface mounted device (SMD) microphone monitors noise. A strategically placed micro electro mechanical systems (MEMS) accelerometer monitors vibrations.

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Space Applications
PAPELL contributes to the development of a low wear, low maintenance pumping system that can improve the performance of satellites, space stations and space telescopes. Magnetic pumps can offer lower noise levels and longer operational lifetimes than conventional pumps. The technology is not yet fully developed or tested for the space environment. Results from PAPELL advance efforts to design this new class of pumps and may solve other space-based fluid transport problems as well.

Earth Applications
Many applications on Earth would benefit from a low wear/low maintenance pump with extended operational lifetime. The lower noise level of magnetic pumps can also improve safety and comfort in the workplace. By documenting magnetic fluid performance under unusual conditions of microgravity, PAPELL advances understanding of these systems and how they can be used.

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Operational Requirements and Protocols

The experiment is conducted for 30 days within a NanoLab Platform inside a NanoRacks Module with volume constraints of 10 cm by 10 cm by 15 cm. As the interface, a USB 3.0 is provided, where the maximum allowed power of 4.5 W is drawn.
The experiment operates with 12 hours charging cycles followed by at least an hour of experiment conduction. This allows for at least 52 experiment cycles partly conducted in Experiment Area 1 and 2. A minor fraction of the experiment runs is dedicated to producing outreach material.
For direct observation of the experiment, at least one frame is transmitted every 2 seconds, which results in a required downlink data rate of at least 825 kB/s. The bulk of recorded data is stored on flash drives, which are easily removed by a crew member and need to be returned to Earth.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

Information Pending

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Results/More Information

Information Pending

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Related Websites
KSat e.V.
University of Stuttgart

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