A microscale model for thin-film evaporation in capillary wick structures

Ram Ranjan, Purdue University - Main Campus
Jayathi Y. Murthy, Network for Computational Nanotechnology, School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University
Suresh V. Garimella, Purdue University

Date of this Version



International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer Volume 54, Issues 1–3, 15 January 2011, Pages 169–179


A numerical model is developed for the evaporating liquid meniscus in wick microstructures under saturated vapor conditions. Four different wick geometries representing common wicks used in heat pipes. viz., wire mesh, rectangular grooves, sintered wicks and vertical microwires, are modeled and compared for evaporative performance. The solid-liquid combination considered is copper-water. Steady evaporation is modeled and the liquid-vapor interface shape is assumed to be static during evaporation. Liquid-vapor interface shapes in different geometries are obtained by solving the Young-Laplace equation using Surface Evolver. Mass, momentum and energy equations are solved numerically in the liquid domain, with the vapor assumed to be saturated. Evaporation at the interface is modeled by using heat and mass transfer rates obtained from kinetic theory. Thermocapillary convection due to non-isothermal conditions at the interface is modeled for all geometries and its role in heat transfer enhancement from the interface is quantified for both low and high superheats. More than 80% of the evaporation heat transfer is noted to occur from the thin-film region of the liquid meniscus. The very small Capillary and Weber numbers resulting from the small fluid velocities near the interface for low superheats validate the assumption of a static liquid meniscus shape during evaporation. Solid-liquid contact angle, wick porosity, solid-vapor superheat and liquid level in the wick pore are varied to study their effects on evaporation from the liquid meniscus. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Nanoscience and Nanotechnology