Scalable Nanopatterned Surfaces for More Efficient Power Plants

Many industrial plants depend on water vapor condensing on metal plates. In power plants, the resulting water is then returned to a boiler to be vaporized again, and in desalination plants, it yields a supply of clean water. The efficiency of such plants depends on how easily droplets of water can form on these metal plates, or condensers, and how easily they fall away, leaving room for more droplets to form. The key to improving the efficiency of such plants is to increase the condensers' heat-transfer coefficient – a measure of how readily heat can be transferred away from those surfaces. Mechanical engineers at MIT have developed a coated surface with nanostructured patterns that greatly increase the heat-transfer coefficient.