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MIT Research News

May 15, 2019

New surface treatment could improve refrigeration efficiency

A slippery surface for liquids with very low surface tension promotes droplet formation, facilitating heat transfer.

David L. Chandler | MIT News Office

Unlike water, liquid refrigerants and other fluids that have a low surface tension tend to spread quickly into a sheet when they come into contact with a surface. But for many industrial processes it would be better if the fluids formed droplets, which could roll or fall off the surface and carry heat away with them.

Now, researchers at MIT have made significant progress in promoting droplet formation and shedding in such fluids. This approach could lead to efficiency improvements in many large-scale industrial processes including refrigeration, thus saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The new findings are described in the journal Joule, in a paper by recent graduate and postdoc Karim Khalil PhD '18, professor of mechanical engineering Kripa Varanasi, professor of chemical engineering and Associate Provost Karen Gleason, and four others.