Heterogeneous bubble nucleation dynamics

Mirko Gallo, Francesco Magaletti, Carlo Massimo Casciola

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Heterogeneous nucleation is the most effective mechanism for the inception of phase transformation. Solid walls and impurities act as a catalyst for the formation of a new thermodynamic phase by reducing the activation energy required for a phase change, hence enhancing nucleation. The formation of vapour bubbles close to solid, ideally flat, walls is addressed here by exploiting a mesoscale description that couples diffuse interface modelling of the two-phase vapour-liquid system with fluctuating hydrodynamics, extending previous work by the authors on homogeneous nucleation. The technical focus of this work is to directly account for hydrophobic or hydrophilic walls through appropriate boundary conditions compliant with the fluctuation-dissipation balance, a crucial point in the context of fluctuating hydrodynamics theory. This methodology provides access to the complete dynamics of the nucleation process, from the inception of multiple bubbles up to their long-time macroscopic expansion, on time and spatial scales unaffordable by standard techniques for nucleation, such as molecular dynamics. The analysis mainly focuses on the effect of wall wettability on the nucleation rate, and, albeit qualitatively in agreement with classical nucleation theory predictions, it reveals several discrepancies to be ascribed to layering effects in the liquid close to the boundary and to bubble-bubble interactions. In particular, it is found that, close to moderately hydrophilic surfaces, the most probable nucleation events occur away from the wall through a homogeneous mechanism.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article numberA20
    JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
    Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2020

    Bibliographical note

    This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


    • bubble dynamics
    • heterogeneous nucleation
    • Fluctuating hydrodynamics
    • Diffuse interface model


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