Evaporation is a ubiquitous and complex phenomenon of importance to many natural and industrial systems. Evaporation occurs when molecules near the free interface overcome intermolecular attractions with the bulk liquid. As molecules escape the liquid phase, heat is removed, causing evaporative cooling. The influence of evaporative cooling on inducing a temperature difference with the surrounding atmosphere as well as within the liquid is poorly understood. Here, we develop a technique to overcome past difficulties encountered during the study of heterogeneous droplet evaporation by coupling a piezo-driven droplet generation mechanism to a controlled micro-thermocouple to probe microdroplet evaporation. The technique allowed us to probe the gas-phase temperature distribution using a micro-thermocouple (50 μm) in the vicinity of the liquid-vapor interface with high spatial (±10 μm) and temporal (±100 ms) resolution. We experimentally map the temperature gradient formed surrounding sessile water droplets having varying curvature dictated by the apparent advancing contact angle (100° ≲ θ ≲ 165°). The experiments were carried out at temperatures below and above ambient for a range of fixed droplet radii (130 μm ≲ R ≲ 330 μm). Our results provide a primary validation of the centuries-old theoretical framework underpinning heterogeneous droplet evaporation mediated by the working fluid, substrate, and gas thermophysical properties, droplet apparent contact angle, and droplet size. We show that microscale droplets residing on low-thermal-conductivity substrates such as glass absorb up to 8× more heat from the surrounding gas compared to droplets residing on high-thermal-conductivity substrates such as copper. Our work not only develops an experimental understanding of the heat transfer mechanisms governing droplet evaporation but also presents a powerful platform for the study and characterization of liquid-vapor transport at curved interfaces wetting and nonwetting advanced functional surfaces.
Keywords: ambient evaporative cooling; droplet; evaporation; heat transfer; interface; nanotechnology; thermocouple.