Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Engineering and Applied Science



Major Professor

Hegseth, John

Second Advisor

Charalampidis, Dimitrios

Third Advisor

Tang, Jinke

Fourth Advisor

Murphy, Joseph

Fifth Advisor

Ioup, Juliette

Sixth Advisor

Saxton, Ralph


Gravity on Earth limits the study of the properties of pure fluids near critical point because they become stratified under their own weight. Near the critical point, all thermodynamic properties either diverge or converge and the heating and cooling cause instabilities of the convective flow as a consequence of the expansibility divergence. In order to study boiling, fluctuation and phase separation processes near the critical point of pure fluids without the influence of the Earth's gravity, a number of experiments were performed in the weightlessness of Mir space station. The experimental setup called ALICE II instrument was designed to suppress sedimentation and buoyancy-driven flow. Another set of experiments were carried out on Earth using a carefully density matched system of deuterated methanolcycloxexane to observe critical fluctuations directly. The set of experiments performed on board of Mir space station studied boiling and wetting film dynamics during evaporation near the critical point of two pure fluids (sulfur hexafluoride and carbon dioxide) using a defocused grid method. The specially designed cell containing the pure fluid was heated and, as a result, a low contrast line appeared on the wetting film that corresponded to a sharp change in the thickness of the film. A large mechanical response was observed in response to the cell heating and we present quantitative results about the receding contact lines. It is found that the vapor recoil force is responsible for the receding contact line. Local density fluctuations were observed by illuminating a cylindrical cell filled with the pure fluid near its liquid- gas critical point and recorded using a microscope and a video recorder. Microscopic fluctuations were analyzed both in sulfur hexafluoride and in a binary mixture of methanol cyclohexane. Using image processing techniques, we were able to estimate the properties of the fluid from the recorded images showing fluctuations of the transmitted and scattered light. We found that the histogram of an image can be fitted to a Gaussian relationship and by determining its width we were able to estimate the position of the critical point. The characteristic length of the fluctuations corresponding to the maximum of the radial average of the power spectrum was also estimated. The power law growth for the early stage of the phase separation was determined for two different temperature quenches in pure fluid and these results are in agreement with other experimental results and computational simulations.


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