superhydrophobic, convection, heat transfer, mass transfer, microchannel, nucleation


This work experimentally studies the effects of single wall heating on laminar flow in a high-aspect ratio superhydrophobic microchannel. When water that is saturated with air is used as the working liquid, the non-wetted cavities on the superhydrophobic surfaces act as nucleation sites and allow air to effervesce out of the water and onto the surface when heated. Previous works in the literature have only considered the opposite case where the water is undersaturated and absorbs air out the cavities for a microchannel setting. The microchannel considered in this work consists of a rib/cavity structured superhydrophobic surface and a glass surface separated by spacers. The microchannel is 60 mm long by 14 mm wide and two channel heights of nominally 183 μm and 366 μm are explored. The superhydrophobic side is in contact with a heated aluminum block and a camera is used to visualize the flow through the glass side. Thermocouples are embedded in the aluminum to record the temperature profile along the length of the channel. Temperatures are maintained below the boiling temperature of the working liquid. The friction factor-Reynolds product (fRe) is obtained via pressure drop and volumetric flow-rate measurements. Five surface types/configurations are investigated: smooth hydrophilic, smooth hydrophobic, superhydrophobic with ribs perpendicular to the flow, superhydrophobic with ribs parallel to the flow, and superhydrophobic with ribs parallel to the flow with several breaker ridges perpendicular to the flow. The surface type/configuration has a significant impact on the mass transport dynamics. For surfaces with closed cell micro-structures, large bubbles eventually form and adversely affect fRe and lead to higher temperatures along the channel. When degassed water is used, no bubble nucleation is observed and the air initially trapped in the superhydrophobic cavities is quickly absorbed by the water.

Original Publication Citation

Cowley, A., Maynes, D., Crockett, J., and Iverson, B. D. (2018). Bubble nucleation in superhydrophobic microchannels due to subcritical heating. International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer, 121 , 196-206.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology


Mechanical Engineering