Surface topography plays an important role in promoting or suppressing localized condensation. In this work, we study the growth of water droplets on hydrophobic convex surface textures such as bumps and concave surface textures such as dimples with a millimeter scale radius of curvature. We analyze the spatio-temporal droplet size distribution under a supersaturation condition created by keeping the uniform surface temperature below the dew point and show its relationship with the sign and magnitude of the surface curvature. In particular, in contrast to the well-known capillary condensation effect, we report an unexpectedly less favorable condensation on smaller, millimeter-scale dimples where the capillary condensation effect is negligible. To explain these experimental results, we numerically calculated the diffusion flux of water vapor around the surface textures, showing that its magnitude is higher on bumps and lower on dimples compared to a flat surface. We envision that our understanding of millimetric surface topography can be applied to improve the energy efficiency of condensation in applications such as water harvesting, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems for buildings and transportation, heat exchangers, thermal desalination plants, and fuel processing systems.
This work was partially supported by the Water Collaboration Seed Funds program of the Northwestern Center for Water Research.