KSME International Journal

, Volume 18, Issue 8, pp 1271–1287 | Cite as

Vapor Bubble Nucleation: A Microscopic Phenomenon

  • Ho-Young Kwak
Invited Review Article


In this article, vapor bubble nucleation in liquid and the evaporation process of a liquid droplet at its superheat limit were discussed from the viewpoint of molecular clustering (molecular cluster model for bubble nucleation). For the vapor bubble formation, the energy barrier against bubble nucleation was estimated by the molecular interaction due to the London dispersion force. Bubble nucleation by quantum tunneling in liquid helium under negative pressure near the absolute zero temperature and bubble nucleation on cavity free micro heaters were also presented as the homogenous nucleation processes.

Key Words

Evaporation Molecular Cluster Quantum Tunneling Superheat Limit Tensile Strength Vapor Bubble 



Surface area of heater


Average distance between molecules


Rate of molecules striking on the surface of n-mer cluster


Van der Waals’ diameter of liquid molecules


Ionization potential


Free energy needed to form n-mer cluster


Free energy needed to form a bubble with radius of r


Plank constant


Nucleation probability, Eq. (19)


Nucleation rate of bubble per unit volume


Nucleation rate of n-mer cluster per unit volume


Nucleation rate per unit area


Boltzman constant


Mass of molecule


Molecular weight


Nmber of molecules in a cluster


Nmber density ( = ρm/m)


Pressure inside a bubble


Vapor pressure


Ambient pressure


Radius of bubble


Gas constant


Radius of evaporated sphere in the droplet


Temperature of liquid


Critical temperature


Melting temperature of liquid


Time lag of nucleation events


Superheat limit of liquid


Volume of a droplet


Molar volume of liquid


Effective molecular volume of liquid


Coordination number


Zeldovich nonequilibrium factor

Greek letters


Polarizability of a liquid molecule


Accommodation coefficient


Enthalpy of evaporation


Enthalpy of fusion


Potential parameter of the London dispersion attraction


Energy needed to separate a pair of molecules


Vibrational energy


Chemical potential


Density of liquid


Critical density of liquid


Interfacial tension


Tensile strength of liquid


Tunneling frequency



Critical cluster or critical size bubble


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Copyright information

© The Korean Society of Mechanical Engineers (KSME) 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mechanical Engineering DepartmentChung-Ang UniversitySeoulKorea

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