Designing Surfaces for Enhanced Water Condensation and Evaporation

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


With the increasing pressure of providing reliable potable water in a sustainable way, it is important to understand water phase change phenomena (condensation and evaporation) as the water phase change is involved in many processes such as membrane distillation and solar still which can be a feasible choice of supplementing the present potable water access. In the present thesis, we first elucidate the role of wettability of water condensation substrate by combining the droplet growth dynamics and droplet population evolution. The results show that wettability has a negligible effect on water condensation rate in an atmospheric environment. After confirming the role of substrate wettability, we provide a quantitative analysis of the effect of substrate geometry on water condensation in the atmospheric environment. The analysis can help to predict the efficiency of water condensation rate with a given substrate of a certain geometry with the aid of computational simulation tools. The results show that water condensation can be increased by 40% by rationally designing the geometry of the condensation surface. However, the condensation rate in the atmospheric environment is relatively slow due to the presence of non-condensable gas. In order to increase the condensation rate, a relatively pure vapor environment is desired, in which condensed water will be the major heat transfer barrier. Coalescence induced jumping of condensed droplets on superhydrophobic surfaces is an interesting phenomenon to help faster removal of condensed droplets. However, it is still not clear how to optimize the overall heat transfer efficiency by condensation on such surfaces. We observed an interesting phenomenon on a superhydrophobic nano-cones array, on which water preferentially condenses within larger cavities among the nanocones. Droplets growing form larger cavities have larger growth rate. This finding can possibly provide a solution to optimizing heat transfer efficiency. Finally, a nylon-carbon black composite is prepared by electrospinning to enhance water evaporation under solar radiation. The composite shows an interesting light absorption property. In a wet state, the composite can absorb around 94% of the incident sunlight. The composite also shows strong mechanical and chemical stability. Thus, the composite is considered to be a practical candidate to be applied in the solar distillation process.
Date of AwardAug 2019
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Biological, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorPeng Wang (Supervisor)


  • condensation
  • evaporation
  • mass transfer
  • solar energy
  • heat transfer
  • material preparation

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