Bubble dynamics and heat transfer characteristics on a micropillar-structured surface with different nucleation site positions


Microstructured surfaces have been extensively employed to enhance nucleate boiling. However, enhancement mechanisms have not been fully understood. In this work, a three-dimensional numerical model is developed to investigate growth and departure dynamics of a single bubble for nucleate boiling on a micropillar-structured surface. In the model, the volume of fluid method is used to capture vapor–liquid interfaces, and evaporations in both vapor–liquid interface and microlayer are taken into account. Moreover, a pressure outlet boundary condition is proposed to reasonably describe the inflow and outflow on side surfaces of the computational domain. The focus of this work is to answer how the location of nucleation site affects bubble dynamics and the resultant heat transfer characteristics. Two typical locations are considered: the center in the micropillar gap and the corner between the micropillar and substrate, referred to as the center nucleation and corner nucleation. The results show that the bubble with the center nucleation exhibits symmetric growth and departure, whereas the symmetry is broken up for the bubble with the corner nucleation. Asymmetric growth and departure induce asymmetric temperature profiles inside/around the bubble, leading to a faster departure and a smaller departure diameter for the bubble with the corner nucleation. Moreover, contributions of microlayer evaporation and vapor–liquid interface evaporation for the two nucleation locations are also discussed.

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A b–p :

Contact area between bubble and micropillars/mm2

A b–s :

Contact area between bubble and substrate/mm2

A surface :

Contact area between microlayer cell and solid wall/m2

C p :

Specific heat at constant pressure/J kg−1 K−1

E :

Total energy per unit mass/J kg−1

F b :


\(\overrightarrow {{F_{\text{m}} }}\) :

Source term of vapor/liquid mass transfer rate due to evaporation for Navier–Stokes equation/kg m−2 s−2

F s :

Surface tension/N

\(\overrightarrow {{F_{\upsigma} }}\) :

Source term of surface tension for Navier–Stokes equation/kg m−2 s−2

\(\overrightarrow {g}\) :

Gravitational acceleration/m s−2

h lv :

Latent heat of vaporization/J kg−1

h surface :

Boiling heat transfer coefficient of entire micropillar-structured surface/W m−2 K−1

k :

Thermal conductivity/W m−1 K−1

\(\dot{m}\) :

Phase change rate due to evaporation in the cell/kg m−3 s−1

\(\overrightarrow {n}\) :

Unit vector normal to interface

p :


\(\dot{Q}_{\text{h}}\) :

Energy term caused by latent heat of vaporization for energy equation/J m−3 s−1

\(\dot{Q}_{\text{m}}\) :

Internal energy term of vapor/liquid mass transfer rate due to evaporation for energy equation/J m−3 s−1

q :

Heat flux/kW m−2

R :

Universal gas constant/8.314 J mol−1 K−1

R s :

Bubble bottom radius/m

r :

Horizontal distance between microlayer cell and nucleation site/m

T :


t :


\(\overrightarrow {t}\) :

Unit vector tangent to interface

\(\overrightarrow {u}\) :

Velocity vector/m s−1

V bubble :

Bubble volume/mm3

α :

Volume fraction

δ 0 :

Initial microlayer thickness/m


Microlayer thickness/m

θ :

Static contact angle/°

κ :

Curvature of vapor–liquid interface/m−1

μ :

Dynamic viscosity/kg m−1 s−1

ρ :

Density/kg m−3

σ :

Surface tension coefficient/N m−1


Center nucleation


Corner nucleation


Bubble L region


Liquid phase


Vapor–liquid interface




Side surface of micropillar


Top surface of micropillar


Bubble R region






Vapor phase


Solid wall


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This study was partially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 51576063) and Youth Talents Project of Joint Funds of Ministry of Education for Equipment Pre-research in 2019 (6141A02033526).

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Correspondence to Xiao-Dong Wang.

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Chen, H., Sun, Y., Xiao, H. et al. Bubble dynamics and heat transfer characteristics on a micropillar-structured surface with different nucleation site positions. J Therm Anal Calorim 141, 447–464 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10973-020-09301-x

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  • Numerical simulation
  • Nucleate boiling
  • Bubble dynamics
  • Micropillar surface
  • Nucleation locations