Thin liquid films appear in many contexts, such as the cooling of gas turbine blade tips, rocket engines, microelectronics arrays, and hot fuel element surfaces in hypothetical nuclear reactor accidents. Apart from these direct cooling applications of thin liquid layers, thin films form a crucial element in determining the allowable heat flux limits in boiling. This is because the last stages of dryout almost invariably involve the rupture of a residual liquid film, either as a microlayer underneath the bubbles, or a thin annular layer in a high-quality burnout scenario. The destabilization of these thin films under the combined actions of shear stress, evaporation, and thermocapillary effects is quite complex. The later stages of actual rupture to form dry regions, which then expand, resulting in possible overheating, are even more complex and less well understood. However, significant progress has been made in understanding the behavior of these thin films, which are subject to competing instabilities prior to actual rupture. This will be reviewed briefly. Recent work on the advance, or recession, of contact lines will also be described briefly, and significant questions that still remain to be answered will be discussed.

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