Microscopic droplet formation and energy transport analysis of condensation on scalable superhydrophobic nanostructured copper oxide surfaces

Guan Qiu Li, Mohamed H. Alhosani, Shao Jun Yuan, Hao Ran Liu, Amal Al Ghaferi, Tie Jun Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Utilization of nanotechnologies in condensation has been recognized as one opportunity to improve the efficiency of large-scale thermal power and desalination systems. High-performance and stable dropwise condensation in widely-used copper heat exchangers is appealing for energy and water industries. In this work, a scalable and low-cost nanofabrication approach was developed to fabricate superhydrophobic copper oxide (CuO) nanoneedle surfaces to promote dropwise condensation and even jumping-droplet condensation. By conducting systematic surface characterization and in situ environmental scanning electron microscope (ESEM) condensation experiments, we were able to probe the microscopic formation physics of droplets on irregular nanostructured surfaces. At the early stages of condensation process, the interfacial surface tensions at the edge of CuO nanoneedles were found to influence both the local energy barriers for microdroplet growth and the advancing contact angles when droplets undergo depinning. Local surface roughness also has a significant impact on the volume of the condensate within the nanostructures and overall heat transfer from the vapor to substrate. Both our theoretical analysis and in situ ESEM experiments have revealed that the liquid condensate within the nanostructures determines the amount of the work of adhesion and kinetic energy associated with droplet coalescence and jumping. Local and global droplet growth models were also proposed to predict how the microdroplet morphology within nanostructures affects the heat transfer performance of early-stage condensation. Our quantitative analysis of microdroplet formation and growth within irregular nanostructures provides the insight to guide the anodization-based nanofabrication for enhancing dropwise and jumping-droplet condensation performance. (Graph Presented).

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)14498-14511
Number of pages14
Issue number48
StatePublished - 9 Dec 2014


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