At low surface superheat levels, water droplets deposited on ZnO nanostructured surfaces vaporize primarily by conduction transport of heat from the solid heated surface to the liquid-vapor interface. As the superheat is increased beyond the onset of bubble nucleation threshold (ONB), an increasing number of active nucleation sites are observed within the evaporating droplet reducing the time required to completely evaporate the droplet. There were two primary objectives of this investigation; first, to determine how system parameters dictate when ONB occurs and how its heat transfer enhancement effect increases with superheat. The second was to develop a physics-inspired model equation for the evaporation time of a droplet on a nanostructured surface which accounts for effects of conduction transport in the liquid layer of the droplet and nucleate boiling.

A shape factor model for conduction-dominated vaporization of the droplet was first constructed. A correction factor was introduced to account for deviation of the measured droplet evaporation times from the conduction-dominated model. The correction factor form was postulated using a modified form of the onset of nucleate boiling parameter used in the well-known model analysis developed by Hsu to predict onset of nucleation and active nucleation site range in a thermal boundary layer associated with forced convection boiling. Droplet footprint radii were experimentally observed to be affected by superheat and an additional term was introduced to account for this phenomenon. A term was also introduced to include correlations for boiling to incorporate system properties.

This modeling led to an evaporation time equation containing numerical constants dictated by the idealizations from the physical modeling. To develop an improved empirical model equation, these numerical values were taken to be adjustable constants, and a genetic algorithm was used to determine the adjustable constant values that best fit a data collection spanning wide variations of droplet size, surface apparent contact angle, and superheat level. The best-fit constants match the data to an absolute fractional error of 26%. The model equation developed in this study provides insight into the interaction between conduction transport and nucleate boiling effects that can arise in droplet vaporization processes.

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