Industrial processes are normally described as either continuous or batch based. Batch processes produce set numbers of product at intervals while continuous production lines are constantly producing a stream of products from machines that ideally will never need to cease working. The separation between these two techniques is analogous to that of pool boiling and flow boiling. Pool boiling involves a set volume of fluid having heat applied until boiling occurs while flow boiling is the method of forcing the liquid over the heat source in a constant stream. Generally the second is preferred as it allows circular flows for heat transport within nuclear reactors, steam generators and cooling systems. For that last application it is best for the liquid, normally water, to be spread as thinly and as close to the hot object, probably a central processing unit. As computers and their electronics have progressed downwards in size over the years the need for smaller pipes to transport the water was also required. This is why research is being performed about the viability of microchannels.
Various studies have already been performed that describe some of the processes that work to increase heat transport into and out of of the channels. These ideas range from bubble nucleation to thin film evaporation and all contribute to a lesser or greater extent based on aspects of the scenario such as flow rate and channel wall material. The idea suggested in the past is that the heat transport mechanisms can be improved by specialist engineering the channel walls to exhibit microstructures that exist in thermal flow. By improving the wickability (ability for water to move along a material) it was believed that the heat transfer would invariably improve due to an increase in nucleation sites. However there were mixed results with various methods trying to produce the same effect leading to both increases and decreases in performance. Ultimately this comes down to the fact that the exact mechanism through which the surfaces effect the channel flow is unknown and so the effects of any change were ultimately unpredictable. The paper has aimed to use all this data already gathered to assist a series of experiments and prediction to determine exactly how heat transfer is effected by surface alteration.
It was fount that the three important aspects of the microchannels were the heating length scale (sort of like the thickness of the channel walls); the drying time scale (time taken for liquid layer to evaporate); and the self explanatory evaporation area. The model produced was able to accurately predict experimental data with the added drying factor being the key improvement. Now it is possible to predict which microstructures will have the maximum effect on thermal transfer and hopefully this work will lead to further improvements in heat sinks in the future.