Electric Fields to Help Heat TransferCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: December 23, 2013 03:05PM
Power plants, refrigeration, and more rely on water droplets to efficiently transfer heat away from a condenser surface. Earlier this year, researchers at MIT found that a nanopattern on a condenser surface could cause water droplets to take on an electric charge when they leap off of the surface. Now the researchers have found a way to take advantage of this effective to improve the heat transfer process.
The pattern the researchers developed makes a condenser's surface superhydrophobic, so water droplets are more likely to leap off of it. Once they do though, there is a chance they will be pushed back onto the condenser by the water vapor in the surrounding air, and thus inhibit heat transfer. This is where the electric charge of the droplets may come in handy, as a charged mesh could be used to prevent the droplets from falling back to the surface.
On its own, the superhydrophobic patterning can increase heat transfer efficiency by 30%, but coupled with this new process, the efficiency could be doubled. This 'electric-field-enhanced condensation' system could also be used to cool some computer chips as well.