Meet our newly PATENTED microtube heat exchanger for aviation and space
If you know anything about Intergalactic, you know that the microtube heat exchanger plays a leading role in our origin story. Way back in 2016, some engineers at a big aerospace OEM saw some opportunities to innovate, but the Powers That Be said nah. So, the engineers jumped ship and founded their own company.
One of our founders’ earliest innovations was to refine the use of microtube heat exchangers for aerospace applications. Well, now Intergalactic holds a U.S. patent for that work. That’s right, folks – that intellectual property belongs to your best friends in the known galaxy (i.e. Intergalactic).
Yes, Intergalactic holds a U.S. patent for aerospace microtube heat exchangers
On December 6, 2022, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially issued U.S. Patent 11,519,670 to protect the IP rights on our proprietary microtube heat exchanger technology. We’ll summarize here, but you can read more in our super fancy and very official press release.
Basically, the patent covers the general design, manufacturing process, and various applications of microtube heat exchangers in air and space contexts. Specifically, the patent protects:
- Use of all fluids in microtube heat exchangers, including air, liquid coolants, oil, refrigerants, and more.
- Intergalactic’s proprietary construction style, which consists of end plates with holes, multiple microtubes between the plates, all laser welded together.
- A broad range of applications, including various fluid types and flows (including liquid, ram air, and more), mid-plates for flow direction control, tube reinforcement for protection against foreign object debris and damage, and various tube bank geometries (e.g. square, curve, arc, U-shape, and others).
- Various tube arrays and spacing patterns.
- Specific coverage of ram air duct installations which are common in next-generation defense aerospace applications.
Phew! That’s a lot. It’s a broad patent offering lots of protection for the IP our founding engineers worked so hard to develop. God bless America, and our patent attorneys.
What is a microtube heat exchanger?
We thought you’d never ask. A microtube heat exchanger is an array of very small tubes which are bonded to end plates in order to dissipate heat from one fluid to another (air, refrigerant or liquid). Microtube heat exchangers have been used for a while in high-performance auto racing but limitations in technology development and manufacturing have kept them out of the skies and space.
Well, our team figured out how to make it work in the most demanding aerospace environments. We developed the underlying technology and the manufacturing process. We use a proprietary laser welding process, which is super cool and very secret! It provides a strong bond, which is good because we’ve heard some folks have tried to develop aerospace microtubes by gluing the end plates. That’s gross and bad!
Microtube heat exchangers are quickly becoming the new gold standard in space and sky. In aerospace, the legacy standard for heat exchanger technology is brazed plate fin. These are fine heat exchangers but they offer limitations in performance, size, weight, flexibility, and scalability. Microtubes offer far better performance, durability, flexibility, and major size and weight savings, which means you can shrink the entire thermal management system. As our Head of Systems Engineering, Tony Ho, wrote in SAE’s Mobility Engineering:
Intergalactic routinely observes that microtube heat exchangers have shown 3x to 4x the capacity of a conventional plate fin heat exchanger for the same core volume. Alternatively, if one is more sensitive to weight or volume, one could shrink down the size of a microtube heat exchanger to maintain the same performance as a conventional heat exchanger, but significantly reduce weight and installation footprint. In real-world aerospace applications, Intergalactic has seen 50%-80% reduction in weight and/or volume for microtube heat exchangers compared to conventional heat exchanger technology.
How do microtube heat exchangers perform under pressure?
We’re not sadists but we do love to punish our hardware. We’ve put our microtubes through the friggin’ ringer.
You should know that our microtube heat exchangers – along with a bunch of other components and thermal management systems – have been through some of the most demanding qualification testing the defense sector can dole out. And they’ve passed those tests with flying colors, with TRL 8 qualification and strong performance at more than Mach 1, 27 Gs of force, and 14,000 PSI.
What are microtube heat exchangers used for?
Has anyone ever told you that you ask really good questions?
Our microtube heat exchangers were originally developed in-house on IRAD with an eye toward demanding, next-generation military, civil aviation, and space applications where the platform requires insane size and weight savings without compromising on performance and durability.
Our microtube heat exchangers are branded as Boreas3 for military and civil aviation and BoreasX for space. We have off-the-shelf, MCOTS, and clean sheet options, and we can design in almost any form factor. If you want to learn more, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.