Gradient wick channels for enhanced flow boiling HTC and delayed CHF

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© 2020 Liquid supply to wick structures of flow boiling surfaces is fundamentally restricted by the capillary limit at which the pressure drop of the wicked liquid surpasses texture-amplified capillary forces. Gradient wick structures partially decouple permeability and capillary pressure, thereby delaying the capillary limit. In this study, gradient wick channels facilitating out-of-plane liquid delivery are introduced to postpone the capillary limit and thus enhance the two-phase flow boiling heat transfer coefficient (HTC) and delay critical heat flux (CHF). Here, the permeability of the gradient wick channels is augmented by large-pore-size meshes employed near the bulk fluid while capillary pressure is maximized by small-pore-size meshes utilized near the hot boiling surface. This combination of wick structures enables to preferentially guide the cooling liquid, deionized water, from the far-field cold liquid toward the bottom hot substrate. The spatial distribution of individual gradient wick channels promotes separate liquid-vapor pathways, thus facilitating the vapor escape process. Experiments conducted here reveal that the flow boiling performance metrics of the proposed heat sink leveraging the gradient wick channels outperform those of the homogenous wick channels and solid fin channels. The proposed heat sink demonstrates a strong liquid mass flux dependency due to a combination of convective boiling and amplified wickability effects. The enhanced convective boiling could be related to surface roughness, a high number of active nucleation sites, and a large surface area available through tortuous passages of wick channels. At higher mass flow rates, effective capillary pressure available for out-of-plane wicking action also increases, thereby further boosting the wickability effect and associated heat transfer processes. This could meaningfully delay the CHF. In fact, the CHF limit was not observed on the gradient wick channel surfaces in the mass flux and wall superheat range studied. The experimental results indicated a maximum heat flux of 870 W/cm2 with a gradient wick channel heat sink, a 60% improvement compared with a plain copper surface. Furthermore, a maximum HTC of 1000 kW/m2-K at a wall superheat of 3 °C was observed, a three-fold enhancement compared with that of the plain surface. The proposed gradient wick channel topology offers new pathways for designing innovative surface technologies with high heat removal capabilities, thereby potentially improving the energy economy in myriad modern energy applications.

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International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer