The thin film evaporation process through use of thin micro-scale sintered copper mesh screen was proven to be a very effective heat transfer mechanism with high critical heat flux (CHF). This efficient heat transfer mechanism is widely used in designing heat pipe, Capillary Pumped Loops (CPL), and drying process, however, the nucleation process and meniscus dynamics at the liquid-vapor-solid interface are not directly observed and systematically studied. Very few visual investigation in thin film evaporation has been conducted. In the existing two visual studies, the interface thermal resistance between coating and the heated wall was not seriously considered, and the heat flux was limited below 35 W/cm2. In this visualization investigation, the nucleation process and meniscus dynamics from initial condition to drying out were observed and well documented. To minimize the interface thermal resistance, the micro scale wicking was sintered to heated wall directly. High quality images were acquired through a well-designed visualization system. The majority of nucleate bubbles, whose diameters are at a magnitude of 10 μm, were found to form on the top wire surfaces instead of inside the porous media at moderate heat flux. Few large size bubbles were observed to grow inside capillary wicks, however, their presence did not seem to stop the evaporation process as reported before. The menisci receding process was visually captured for the first time. The minimum menisci radius was found to form at the smallest corners and pores. It is also illustrated the thin liquid area increases when the menisci recede and the thin liquid film evaporation is the dominant heat transfer mode at high heat flux. The present work visually confirms the heat transfer regimes of evaporation on micro porous media, which was proposed by Li and Peterson [2], and further improves the understanding to the nucleate boiling and thin liquid film evaporation on the surfaces of micro sintered copper mesh screen.

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