Superhydrophobic Copper Tubes with Possible Flow Enhancement and Drag Reduction

Neil Shirtcliffe, Glen McHale, Michael Newton, Yong Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

212 Citations (Scopus)


The transport of a Newtonian liquid through a smooth pipe or tube is dominated by the frictional drag on the liquid against the walls. The resistance to flow against a solid can, however, be reduced by introducing a layer of gas at or near the boundary between the solid and liquid. This can occur by the vaporization of liquid at a surface at a temperature above the Leidenfrost point, by a cushion of air (e.g. below a hovercraft), or by producing bubbles at the interface. These methods require a continuous energy input, but a more recent discovery is the possibility of using a superhydrophobic surface. Most reported research uses small sections of lithographically patterned surfaces and rarely considers pressure differences or varying flow rates. In this work we present a method for creating a uniform superhydrophobic nanoribbon layer on the inside of round copper tubes of millimetric internal radius. Two types of experiments are described, with the first involving a simultaneous comparison of four tubes with different surface finishes (as received, as received with hydrophobic coating, nanoribbon, and nanoribbon with a hydrophobic coating) under constant flow rate conditions using water and water-glycerol mixtures. The results show that the superhydrophobic nanoribbon with a hydrophobic coating surface finish allows greater flow at low pressure differences but that the effect disappears as the pressure at the inlet of the tube is increased. The second experiment is a simple visual demonstration of the low-pressure behavior using two nominally identical tubes in terms of length and cross-section, but with one tube possessing a superhydrophobic internal surface finish. In this experiment a reservoir is allowed to feed the two tubes with open ends via a T-piece and it is observed that, once flow commences, it preferentially occurs down the superhydrophobic tube.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1316-1323
JournalACS applied materials & interfaces
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2009


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