Analysis of the Wicking and Thin-Film Evaporation Characteristics of Microstructures

Ram Ranjan, Purdue University - Main Campus
Jayathi Y. Murthy, School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University
Suresh Garimella, School of Mechanical Engineering

Date of this Version


This document has been peer-reviewed.



The topology and geometry of microstructures play a crucial role in determining their heat transfer performance in passive cooling devices such as heat pipes. It is therefore important to characterize microstructures based on their wicking performance, the thermal conduction resistance of the liquid filling the microstructure, and the thin-film characteristics of the liquid meniscus. In the present study, the free-surface shapes of the static liquid meniscus in common microstructures are modeled using SURFACE EVOLVER for zero Bond number. Four well-defined topologies, viz., surfaces with parallel rectangular ribs, horizontal parallel cylinders, vertically aligned cylinders, and spheres (the latter two in both square and hexagonal packing arrangements), are considered. Nondimensional capillary pressure, average distance of the liquid free-surface from solid walls (a measure of the conduction resistance of the liquid), total exposed area, and thin-film area are computed. These performance parameters are presented as functions of the nondimensional geometrical parameters characterizing the microstructures, the volume of the liquid filling the structure, and the contact angle between the liquid and solid. Based on these performance parameters, hexagonally-packed spheres on a surface are identified to be the most efficient microstructure geometry for wicking and thin-film evaporation. The solid-liquid contact angle and the nondimensional liquid volume that yield the best performance are also identified. The optimum liquid level in the wick pore that yields the highest capillary pressure and heat transfer is obtained by analyzing the variation in capillary pressure and heat transfer with liquid level and using an effective thermal resistance model for the wick.


Nanoscience and Nanotechnology