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On Localized Vapor Pressure Gradients Governing Condensation and Frost Phenomena

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journal contribution
posted on 27.07.2016, 00:00 by Saurabh Nath, Jonathan B. Boreyko
Interdroplet vapor pressure gradients are the driving mechanism for several phase-change phenomena such as condensation dry zones, interdroplet ice bridging, dry zones around ice, and frost halos. Despite the fundamental nature of the underlying pressure gradients, the majority of studies on these emerging phenomena have been primarily empirical. Using classical nucleation theory and Becker–Döring embryo formation kinetics, here we calculate the pressure field for all possible modes of condensation and desublimation in order to gain fundamental insight into how pressure gradients govern the behavior of dry zones, condensation frosting, and frost halos. Our findings reveal that in a variety of phase-change systems the thermodynamically favorable mode of nucleation can switch between condensation and desublimation depending upon the temperature and wettability of the surface. The calculated pressure field is used to model the length of a dry zone around liquid or ice droplets over a broad parameter space. The long-standing question of whether the vapor pressure at the interface of growing frost is saturated or supersaturated is resolved by considering the kinetics of interdroplet ice bridging. Finally, on the basis of theoretical calculations, we propose that there exists a new mode of frost halo that is yet to be experimentally observed; a bimodal phase map is developed, demonstrating its dependence on the temperature and wettability of the underlying substrate. We hope that the model and predictions contained herein will assist future efforts to exploit localized vapor pressure gradients for the design of spatially controlled or antifrosting phase-change systems.