Spraying water droplets on air fin surfaces is often used to augment performance of air-cooled Rankine power plant condensers and wet cooling tower heat exchangers for building air-conditioning systems. To get the best performance in such processes, the water droplets delivered to the surface should spread rapidly into an extensive, thin film and evaporate with no liquid leaving the surface due to recoil or splashing. This paper presents predictions of theoretical/computational modeling and results of experimental studies of droplet spreading on thin-layer, nanostructured, superhydrophilic surfaces that exhibit very high wicking rates (wickability) in the porous layer. Analysis of the experimental data in the model framework illuminates the key aspects of the physics of the droplet spreading process and evaporation heat transfer. This analysis also predicts the dependence of droplet spreading characteristics on the nanoporous surface morphology and other system parameters. The combined results of this investigation indicate specific key strategies for design and fabrication of surface coatings that will maximize the heat transfer performance for droplet evaporation on heat exchanger surfaces. The implications regarding wickability effects on pool boiling processes are also discussed.

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