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Using Anisotropic Micro-Scale Topography to Manipulate the Wettability of Aluminum and Reduce the Retention of Water

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Title: Using Anisotropic Micro-Scale Topography to Manipulate the Wettability of Aluminum and Reduce the Retention of Water
Author(s): Sommers, A.D.; Jacobi, A.M.
Subject(s): heat exchangers air-side heat transfer wettability condensate management
Abstract: A method is described for fabricating controlled micro-scale, topographical features on aluminum surfaces for the purpose of exploiting those features to affect the surface wettability. Using a photolithographic approach, a photoresist-masked surface is subjected to a plasma etch in a mixture of gaseous BCl3 and Cl2. Parallel grooves, microns to tens of microns in width, depth and spacing are studied, because this geometry is scaleable for mass production by roll-to-roll micro-embossing, and because the anisotropic nature of these features provides a directional change in wettability that can reduce the retention of water on the surface. Aluminum was studied because it is naturally hydrophilic and widely used in wet-surface heat exchanger applications, because of its low cost and excellent mechanical and thermal properties. Water droplets placed on a micro-grooved aluminum surface using a micro-syringe exhibit significantly increased apparent contact angles, and for water condensed onto an inclined, micro-grooved surface, the droplet volume at incipient sliding is reduced by more than 50% compared to droplets on a surface without micro-grooves. No chemical surface treatment is necessary to achieve this water repellency; it is accomplished solely through the anisotropic surface topography. The droplet geometry shows an elongated base contour relative to a surface without micro-grooves, and discontinuities in the three-phase contact line are also introduced by the grooves. A mechanistic model is presented for predicting the critical droplet size on micro-grooved surfaces. This model extends earlier work by accounting for the droplet geometry and contact-line changes caused by the micro-grooves. The model is validated through comparisons of predicted to measured critical droplet sizes, and it is then used to provide guidance for the development of surfaces with enhanced water drainage behavior. In a broad range of air-cooling applications, water retention on the air-side surface of metallic heat exchangers is problematic, because it can reduce the air-side heat transfer coefficient, increase core pressure drop, and provide a site for biological activity. In refrigeration systems, the accumulation of frost on metallic fins requires periodic defrosting and reduces energy efficiency. When water is retained on these surfaces following the defrost cycle, ice is more readily formed in the subsequent cooling period, and such ice can lead to shorter operation times before the next defrost is required. Thus the management and control of water droplets on heat-transfer and airhandling surfaces is vital to energy efficiency, functionality, and maintenance in air-cooling systems. The microstructured surfaces introduced in this work are proposed for use in air-cooling and dehumidifying applications, but they may have other applications where the management of liquids on a surface is important.
Issue Date: 2007-08
Publisher: Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Center. College of Engineering. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Genre: Technical Report
Type: Text
Language: English
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/12920
Sponsor: Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Project 166Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Project 207
Date Available in IDEALS: 2009-06-24
 

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