Electric-field-enhanced condensation on superhydrophobic nanostructured surfaces

Nenad Miljkovic, Daniel J. Preston, Ryan Enright, Evelyn N. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When condensed droplets coalesce on a superhydrophobic nanostructured surface, the resulting droplet can jump due to the conversion of excess surface energy into kinetic energy. This phenomenon has been shown to enhance condensation heat transfer by up to 30% compared to state-of-the-art dropwise condensing surfaces. However, after the droplets jump away from the surface, the existence of the vapor flow toward the condensing surface increases the drag on the jumping droplets, which can lead to complete droplet reversal and return to the surface. This effect limits the possible heat transfer enhancement because larger droplets form upon droplet return to the surface, which impedes heat transfer until they can be either removed by jumping again or finally shedding via gravity. By characterizing individual droplet trajectories during condensation on superhydrophobic nanostructured copper oxide (CuO) surfaces, we show that this vapor flow entrainment dominates droplet motion for droplets smaller than R ≈ 30 μm at moderate heat fluxes (q″ > 2 W/cm 2). Subsequently, we demonstrate electric-field-enhanced condensation, whereby an externally applied electric field prevents jumping droplet return. This concept leverages our recent insight that these droplets gain a net positive charge due to charge separation of the electric double layer at the hydrophobic coating. As a result, with scalable superhydrophobic CuO surfaces, we experimentally demonstrated a 50% higher overall condensation heat transfer coefficient compared to that on a jumping-droplet surface with no applied field for low supersaturations (<1.12). This work not only shows significant condensation heat transfer enhancement but also offers avenues for improving the performance of self-cleaning and anti-icing surfaces as well as thermal diodes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11043-11054
Number of pages12
JournalACS Nano
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 23 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • condensation
  • droplet charging
  • electric field
  • heat transfer enhancement
  • nanostructured design
  • superhydrophobic
  • vapor entrainment
  • wetting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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