Faculty Advisor

John J. Blandino

Faculty Advisor

Nikolaos A. Gatsonis

Faculty Advisor

Jamal Yagoobi

Faculty Advisor

Mark W. Richman

Faculty Advisor

Michael A. Demetriou


"The importance of two-phase heat transfer for thermal management of aerospace avionic systems has become increasingly important as these systems have become miniaturized. Embedded active cooling systems are used to remove heat from processors and other electronic components and transferring this heat to radiators or other heat exchangers. As the characteristic dimension of flow channels for two-phase flow becomes comparable to bubble size, the mini-channels (< 3 mm) used to direct the cooling fluid can complicate nucleate boiling heat transfer. Bubbles can encounter other heated walls, rapidly expanding and greatly reducing heat transfer as well as causing pressure oscillations and flow instabilities. The use of eletrohydrodynamic (EHD) effects, through the introduction of non-uniform electric fields, can help mitigate this problem by altering the behavior of nucleating bubbles. A combined experimental and computational study was undertaken using HFE-7100, an engineered fluid used in heat transfer applications, to investigate the potential for enhancement of nucleate boiling using EHD effects induced by applying a non-uniform electric field. In the experimental study, a minichannel was constructed consisting of an upper and lower copper electrode and glass side walls to allow visualization. The channel height and width were 3mm and 4.76 mm respectively, representative of the minichannel regime. The upper electrode was grounded while the lower electrode was heated and biased to high voltage. Optical imaging combined with post-processing and statistical analysis was used to quantify the effect of EHD on the bubble behavior. Bubbles were found to form preferentially on nucleation sites resulting from imperfections in the heated copper surface over artificially created nucleation sites. When a high voltage is applied across the electrodes, the electric field enhancement along the rim of the nucleation site is believed to influence the force balance on the forming bubble and thereby influence the bubble departure size and frequency. EHD forces also act on the bubble surface as a result of the variation in permittivity between the liquid and vapor phases, altering its shape as has been previously reported in the literature. Test results are presented that demonstrate that the application of EHD increases the nucleation site density on the heated surface and increase the bubble departure frequency from individual sites. In addition, test results are presented to show that EHD forces alter the shape of bubbles during growth and the vertical position of the detached bubbles as they are carried along in the cross flow. To better understand the underlying phenomena affecting the bubble shape and departure frequency, a numerical simulation of the bubble growth and departure was performed using COMSOL multiphysics software customized to incorporate a user-defined body force based on the Maxwell Stress Tensor. Tracking of the bubble surface, including coalescence and breakup was incorporated using the phase field variable method in which the Navier-Stokes and heat transfer equations are solved for each phase of the fluid. Results from the simulations confirmed the sensitivity of the bubble elongation and neck formation to the nucleation site geometry, specifically the angle along the rim where field enhancement occurs. The enhanced constriction of the bubble neck resulted in early detachment of bubbles when compared to simulations in which EHD was not applied. This finding provides some insight into the higher bubble departure frequency and nucleation site density observed in the experiment. The results from the combined experimental and numerical study suggest that EHD enhancement may provide a mechanism for extending the use of nucleate heat transfer to minichannels, thereby enabling additional options for cooling in compact, embedded systems. "


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Aerospace Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





electrohydrodynamics, heat transfer, bubbles, ehd, dielectrophoresis, dip