Enhancing the critical heat flux (CHF) of industrial boilers by surface texturing can lead to substantial energy savings and global reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, but fundamentally this phenomenon is not well understood. Prior studies on boiling crisis indicate that CHF monotonically increases with increasing texture density. Here we report on the existence of maxima in CHF enhancement at intermediate texture density using measurements on parametrically designed plain and nano-textured micropillar surfaces. Using high-speed optical and infrared imaging, we study the dynamics of dry spot heating and rewetting phenomena and reveal that the dry spot heating timescale is of the same order as that of the gravity and liquid imbibition-induced dry spot rewetting timescale. Based on these insights, we develop a coupled thermal-hydraulic model that relates CHF enhancement to rewetting of a hot dry spot on the boiling surface, thereby revealing the mechanism governing the hitherto unknown CHF enhancement maxima.
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