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Experimental Study of Water Droplet Vaporization on Nanostructured Surfaces


This dissertation summarizes results of an experimental exploration of heat transfer during vaporization of a water droplet deposited on a nanostructured surface at a temperature approaching and exceeding the Leidenfrost point for the surface and at lower surface temperatures 10-40 degrees C above the saturated temperature of the water droplet at approximately 101 kPa. The results of these experiments were compared to those performed on bare smooth copper and aluminum surfaces in this and other studies.

The nanostructured surfaces were composed of a vast array of zinc oxide (ZnO) nanocrystals grown by hydrothermal synthesis on a smooth copper substrate having an average surface roughness of approximately 0.06 micrometer. Various nanostructured surface array geometries were produced on the copper substrate by performing the hydrothermal synthesis for 4, 10 and 24 hours. The individual nanostructures were randomly-oriented and, depending on hydrothermal synthesis time, had a mean diameter of about 500-700 nm, a mean length of 1.7-3.3 micrometers,and porosities of approximately 0.04-0.58.

Surface wetting was characterized by macroscopic measurements of contact angle based on the droplet profile and calculations based on measurements of liquid film spread area. Scanning electron microscope imaging was used to document the nanoscale features of the surface before and after the experiments. The nanostructured surfaces grown by hydrothermal synthesis for 4 and 24 hours exhibited contact angles of approximately 10, whereas the surfaces grown for 10 hours were superhydrophilic, exhibiting contact angles typically less than 3 degrees.

In single droplet deposition experiments at 101 kPa, a high-speed video camera was

used to document the droplet-surface interaction. Distilled and degassed water droplets

ranging in size from 2.5-4.0 mm were deposited onto the surface from heights ranging from approximately 0.2-8.1 cm, such that Weber numbers spanned a range of approximately 0-99. Heat transfer coefficients were determined from thermal measurements in the test apparatus. All experiments were conducted inside an ISO Class 5 clean room enclosure.

It was observed that when a liquid water droplet impinged upon the ZnO nanostructured

at surface temperatures less than 140 degrees C, the nominally spherical droplet spread into a thin film over the surface. The film thickness depended on many parameters but in general it measured approximately 100-400 micrometers. As a result, it was found that the droplet evaporated by film evaporation without initiating nucleate boiling. At wall superheat levels of 10-20 degrees C, it was found in some cases that the heat transfer coefficients were nearly 4 times greater than for those of nucleate boiling at the same superheat level. For these conditions, no bubble nucleation was observed visually, and, nevertheless, extremely high heat transfer coefficients resulting from rapid evaporation of the thin liquid film formed by the spreading droplet were observed.

At high wall superheat levels, the vaporization process exhibited Leidenfrost droplet vaporization. The extreme wetting of the nanostructured surfaces resulted in high Leidenfrost transition temperatures in the range of 310-376 degrees C, among the highest in the literature, exceeding those exhibited by bare metal surfaces by 100 degrees C or more. The Leidenfrost transition was detected from a recording of the acoustic signal generated from each experiment during the deposition and subsequent evaporation process. It was defined as the first point for which there is no disturbance to the acoustical signal in the form of a sizzling sound beyond the initial violent popping generated during the droplet deposition. The results document a trend of increasing Leidenfrost temperature with decreasing contact angle, which is consistent with earlier studies. The results of this study are compared with earlier work in this area and the implications for applications are discussed.

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