Effect of droplet morphology on growth dynamics and heat transfer during condensation on superhydrophobic nanostructured surfaces

Nenad Miljkovic, Ryan Enright, Evelyn N. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Condensation on superhydrophobic nanostructured surfaces offers new opportunities for enhanced energy conversion, efficient water harvesting, and high performance thermal management. These surfaces are designed to be Cassie stable and favor the formation of suspended droplets on top of the nanostructures as compared to partially wetting droplets which locally wet the base of the nanostructures. These suspended droplets promise minimal contact line pinning and promote passive droplet shedding at sizes smaller than the characteristic capillary length. However, the gas films underneath such droplets may significantly hinder the overall heat and mass transfer performance. We investigated droplet growth dynamics on superhydrophobic nanostructured surfaces to elucidate the importance of droplet morphology on heat and mass transfer. By taking advantage of well-controlled functionalized silicon nanopillars, we observed the growth and shedding behavior of suspended and partially wetting droplets on the same surface during condensation. Environmental scanning electron microscopy was used to demonstrate that initial droplet growth rates of partially wetting droplets were 6× - larger than that of suspended droplets. We subsequently developed a droplet growth model to explain the experimental results and showed that partially wetting droplets had 4-6× - higher heat transfer rates than that of suspended droplets. On the basis of these findings, the overall performance enhancement created by surface nanostructuring was examined in comparison to a flat hydrophobic surface. We showed these nanostructured surfaces had 56% heat flux enhancement for partially wetting droplet morphologies and 71% heat flux degradation for suspended morphologies in comparison to flat hydrophobic surfaces. This study provides insights into the previously unidentified role of droplet wetting morphology on growth rate, as well as the need to design Cassie stable nanostructured surfaces with tailored droplet morphologies to achieve enhanced heat and mass transfer during dropwise condensation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1776-1785
Number of pages10
JournalACS Nano
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 28 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • ESEM
  • droplet growth dynamics
  • dropwise condensation
  • heat transfer enhancement
  • nanostructure design
  • superhydrophobic
  • wetting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Engineering(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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