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Study Seeks To Improve Evaporation and Condensation Processes
December 26, 2019

Power generation, the heat in our homes, air-conditioning, even the manufacturing of some of the products we use each day rely on evaporation and condensation processes. Improving and controlling these phase-change phenomena could increase energy efficiency across a vast number of industries.

Now, according to information provided by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Rensselaer), a team is studying how evaporation and condensation processes can be improved or controlled at the micro level.

Supported by a new National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER grant, the team is looking specifically at what happens when nanomaterials or nanostructures are coated on a surface to control phase-change. Prior to this project, researchers have only been able to see some of the effects these materials have on evaporation and condensation, but haven’t understood what’s happening at the microscale.

“Our understanding of the phase-change process could be much different from what’s taking place at the micro and nanoscales. Things like how this process can be delayed or advanced, or how quickly or slowly it takes place in the small scale, could be much different from the macroscale behavior,” explained Shankar Narayanan, an assistant professor of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering.

In order to evaluate phase-change at the microscale level, the research team will use a novel technique it has developed. The technique combines an extremely sensitive piezoelectric mass and area-sensing mechanism that can sense a very small change in mass as a substance evaporates or condenses within micro and nanomaterials.

Prof. Narayanan hopes the team’s findings can guide multiple industries in choosing materials that will achieve the highest efficiency possible.

“Considering the scale at which we are generating power, or cooling data centers, for example, even a small improvement in phase-change could yield significant energy savings,” Prof. Narayanan noted.

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