When condensation first forms on a surface, it starts as tiny droplets. As the surface continues to collect condensation, the droplets grow together and form a film. The film increases the thermal resistance of the system. It is possible to remove the fluid from the condensing surface before it develops into a film. Dropwise condensation has the capability of providing up to an order of magnitude higher heat transfer than film condensation.
A hydrophobic surface is capable of sustaining dropwise condensation but creates a high energy barrier that restricts nucleation. A hydrophilic surface has a low energy barrier for nucleation but retains the water quickly transitioning to film condensation. A hydrophilic and hydrophobic patterned surface creates a surface with a low nucleation energy barrier and is capable of sustaining dropwise condensation.
Surface patterns are evaluated under laminar flow conditions to maximize mass collection. The surfaces are evaluated using a thermal model, which includes an equivalent thermal resistance for diffusion. Laminar flow rates are evaluated using Reynolds numbers from 1,218 to 4 × 105. Hydrophilic nodules sizes are evaluated from 0.1 mm to 3.7 mm. Under natural convection flow, mass collection can be increased by 20% with respect to film heat transfer.