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Design and Fabrication of a Hybrid Superhydrophobic–Hydrophilic Surface That Exhibits Stable Dropwise Condensation

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posted on 28.10.2015, 00:00 by Bikash Mondal, Marc Mac Giolla Eain, QianFeng Xu, Vanessa M. Egan, Jeff Punch, Alan M. Lyons
Condensation of water vapor is an essential process in power generation, water collection, and thermal management. Dropwise condensation, where condensed droplets are removed from the surface before coalescing into a film, has been shown to increase the heat transfer efficiency and water collection ability of many surfaces. Numerous efforts have been made to create surfaces which can promote dropwise condensation, including superhydrophobic surfaces on which water droplets are highly mobile. However, the challenge with using such surfaces in condensing environments is that hydrophobic coatings can degrade and/or water droplets on superhydrophobic surfaces transition from the mobile Cassie to the wetted Wenzel state over time and condensation shifts to a less-effective filmwise mechanism. To meet the need for a heat-transfer surface that can maintain stable dropwise condensation, we designed and fabricated a hybrid superhydrophobic–hydrophilic surface. An array of hydrophilic needles, thermally connected to a heat sink, was forced through a robust superhydrophobic polymer film. Condensation occurs preferentially on the needle surface due to differences in wettability and temperature. As the droplet grows, the liquid drop on the needle remains in the Cassie state and does not wet the underlying superhydrophobic surface. The water collection rate on this surface was studied using different surface tilt angles, needle array pitch values, and needle heights. Water condensation rates on the hybrid surface were shown to be 4 times greater than for a planar copper surface and twice as large for silanized silicon or superhydrophobic surfaces without hydrophilic features. A convection–conduction heat transfer model was developed; predicted water condensation rates were in good agreement with experimental observations. This type of hybrid superhydrophobic–hydrophilic surface with a larger array of needles is low-cost, robust, and scalable and so could be used for heat transfer and water collection applications.