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New design could improve condenser performance
Date:10/25/2012

CAMBRIDGE, MA -- Condensers are a crucial part of today's power generation systems: About 80 percent of all the world's powerplants use them to turn steam back to water after it comes out of the turbines that turn generators. They are also a key element in desalination plants, a fast-growing contributor to the world's supply of fresh water.

Now, a new surface architecture designed by researchers at MIT holds the promise of significantly boosting the performance of such condensers. The research is described in a paper just published online in the journal ACS Nano by MIT postdoc Sushant Anand; Kripa Varanasi, the Doherty Associate Professor of Ocean Utilization; and graduate student Adam Paxson, postdoc Rajeev Dhiman and research affiliate Dave Smith, all of Varanasi's research group at MIT.

The key to the improved hydrophobic (water-shedding) surface is a combination of microscopic patterning a surface covered with tiny bumps or posts just 10 micrometers (millionths of a meter) across, about the size of a red blood cell and a coating of a lubricant, such as oil. The tiny spaces between the posts hold the oil in place through capillary action, the researchers found.

The team discovered that droplets of water condensing on this surface moved 10,000 times faster than on surfaces with just the hydrophobic patterning. The speed of this droplet motion is key to allowing the droplets to fall from the surface so that new ones can form, increasing the efficiency of heat transfer in a powerplant condenser, or the rate of water production in a desalination plant.

With this new treatment, "drops can glide on the surface," Varanasi says, floating like pucks on an air-hockey table and looking like hovering UFOs a behavior Varanasi says he has never seen in more than a decade of work on hydrophobic surfaces. "These are just crazy velocities."

The amount of lubricant required is minimal: It forms a thin coating, and is secu
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Contact: Sarah McDonnell
s_mcd@mit.edu
617-253-8923
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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