Super-efficient condensers for power plants

Edit Hook

Researchers at Duke University, Chuan-Hua Chen and Jonathan Boreyko, are working on a superhydrophobic surface that will greatly increase the efficiency of power plant condensers. The researchers have developed a biomimetic, two-tier surface with carbon nanotubes deposited on micromachined silicon posts. When cooled, the synthetic surface causes water droplets to form quickly and jump. Watch VideoTheir work is also looking at how to use superhydrophobicity to enhance heat transport in microelectronics cooling.

Key Differentiators

The superhydrophobic surface would be more efficient than current surfaces, and could reduce the size of a condenser by ten times.

Biomimicry Story

The researchers at Duke were inspired by both the lotus leaf and mushrooms. Lotus leaves are superhydrophobic due to microbumps on their surfaces that prevent water droplets from adhering to the surface. When a mushroom reproduces, the discharge of spores is actually powered by the energy released when dew droplets merge on them. The engineered texture surpasses lotus leaves in terms of sustaining superhydrophobicity during and after condensation.

Challenges Solved

In power plants, the majority of space is taken up by bulky condensers. Conventional condensers, which are needed to reject heat in power plants’ cooling systems, rely on slick coatings and gravity.

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