Jumping droplets electronics cooling: Promise versus reality

Thomas Foulkes, Junho Oh, Peter Sokalski, Longnan Li, Soumyadip Sett, Jesus Sotelo, Xiao Yan, Robert Carl Nikolai Pilawa Podgurski, Adam Castaneda, Matthew Steinlauf, Nenad Miljkovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Electrifying both stationary and mobile systems requires ultra-compact, lightweight power electronics and electric machines. Increasing the volumetric and gravimetric density of these systems is constrained, however, by the capacity to remove heat from these assemblies. A promising method for extracting heat is jumping droplet condensation, which can address both spatially and temporally changing hotspots. Yet, disagreement exists in the literature about the maximum attainable heat flux for water-based, droplet jumping devices such as vapor chambers, with values ranging from 5 to 500 W/cm2. Here, using thermal measurements and optical imaging in pure vapor conditions, we directly observe the hydrodynamics occurring inside of a jumping droplet vapor chamber. Our experiments show that flooding is the key obstacle limiting jumping droplet mass flux to hot spots, limiting heat transfer to less than 15 W/cm2. These results indicate that past works reporting high heat fluxes benefited from other hot spot cooling pathways such as previously observed liquid bridges formed due to flooding. To test our hypothesis, we characterize progressive flooding on a variety of structured surfaces ranging in length-scale from 100 nm to 10 μm. Progressive flooding was delayed by decreasing the length-scale of the surface structures, which supports recent observations in the literature. Our work not only helps to understand the wide variability of past results quantifying droplet jumping heat transfer, but also provides design guidelines for the development of surfaces that are capable of maintaining enhanced jumping droplet condensation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number203701
JournalApplied Physics Letters
Issue number20
StatePublished - May 18 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)


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