Jacob Butterfield, Brigham Young University
Every year, millions of dollars are spent to cool systems that rely on evaporation and condensation of water, such as power generators and desalination plants. Historically, cooling methods have utilized heat exchangers to cool and condense water vapor to be used in a power cycle or for drinking water. This has been found to be somewhat ineffective due to the filmwise type of condensation that occurs, where the surface tension of water does not readily allow for new droplets to form on the heat exchanger surfaces. Superhydrophobic micro- and nano-structured surfaces have recently been discovered to promote high-mobility drops in dropwise condensation, which greatly increases a surface’s ability to cool and condense water vapor. Dropwise condensation is much more effective because droplets can more easily slide off to make room for new nucleation sites, which leads to increased rates of heat transfer. Some of these droplets combine as they slide to clear off even more surface space, and droplets can even spontaneously jump away from the surface as they coalesce due to imbalances with surface tension. Despite the significant academic attention these surfaces have received in recent years, relatively little research has been conducted on the overall effectiveness of these superhydrophobic surfaces in condensation heat transfer. Another important question that lacks addressing is how to improve their survivability, since the surfaces tend to be damaged and rendered unusable easily. The objective of this project is to explore the effect that superhydrophobic surfaces have on condensation heat transfer and to identify factors that lead to sturdier, more conductive surfaces.