Droplet nucleation and condensation are ubiquitous phenomena in nature and industry. Over the past century, research has shown dropwise condensation heat transfer on nonwetting surfaces to be an order of magnitude higher than filmwise condensation heat transfer on wetting substrates. However, the necessity for nonwetting to achieve dropwise condensation is unclear. This article reports stable dropwise condensation on a smooth, solid, hydrophilic surface (θa = 38°) having low contact angle hysteresis (<3°). We show that the distribution of nano- to micro- to macroscale droplet sizes (about 100 nm to 1 mm) for coalescing droplets agrees well with the classical distribution on hydrophobic surfaces and elucidate that the wettability-governed dropwise-to-filmwise transition is mediated by the departing droplet Bond number. Our findings demonstrate that achieving stable dropwise condensation is not governed by surface intrinsic wettability, as assumed for the past eight decades, but rather, it is dictated by contact angle hysteresis.
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