Saturated water flow boiling heat transfer and pressure drop in scalably microstructured plain and finned copper tubes

Mohamed H. Mousa, Rohan Rao, Cheng Min Yang, Md Rakibul Hasan Roni, Kazi Fazle Rabbi, Nithin Vinod Upot, Vishwanath Ganesan, Kashif Nawaz, Nenad Miljkovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Well established understanding of flow boiling heat transfer and its hydrodynamic driving mechanisms have led to the inception of surface geometry augmentation techniques that can enhance thermal-hydraulic performance. Enhancing the flow boiling heat transfer at a reasonable pressure drop enables the deployment of more compact and efficient heat exchangers and thermal systems. To enable ease of manufacturing, simplicity, and reliability, passive augmentation techniques that do not require external stimuli are preferred. In this study, a scalable copper microstructuring technique was developed on both smooth and internally finned 0.25” tubes to investigate how it affects the thermofluidic behavior of relatively higher surface tension water during saturated flow boiling. The internally finned tubes used in this study comprised of 50 fins with a helical angle of 13°. To apply the conformal microstructures on the internal tube surfaces, chemical oxidation via an alkaline mixture was used, resulting in structures having characteristic length scales approaching 200 nm −1 µm. Our results show that microstructuring of plain copper tubes provides a water flow boiling heat transfer coefficient enhancement ranging from 10 % to 90 % compared to untreated specimens for vapor qualities ranging from 0 to 0.1 and mass flow rates ranging from 255 to 485 kg/(m2·s). Augmentation is attributed to the increased roughness of the plain copper tubes that creates additional nucleation sites for enhanced liquid entrapment and increases wettability. Associated with this heat transfer augmentation is an increased pressure drop ranging from 0.5 % to 38 % relative to untreated tubes due to the increased skin friction as well as add fluid flow disruption. Overall, the performance factor ranged between 0.86 to 1.81 demonstrating that the augmentation in heat transfer overshadowed the increase in pressure drop. Interestingly, applying the conformal microstructures on internally finned copper tubes decreased the heat transfer coefficient and pressure drop by as much as 75 % and 45 %, respectively, when compared to the un-structured finned copper tubes counterparts. The decrease in heat transfer performance and pressure drop was attributed to partial wetting of the fin roots due to the presence of a vapor layer near the inner tube walls. Our work develops a mechanistic understanding of the role that microstructures play during flow boiling of water on industrially applicable smooth and finned tube geometries and designs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number125138
JournalInternational Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer
StatePublished - May 1 2024


  • Augmentation
  • Flow boiling
  • Heat transfer
  • Heat transfer coefficient
  • Steam generation
  • Structured surfaces
  • Water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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