Nucleation – Detailed Process Imaging By Microscopy

Many natural and industrial processes, such as liquid-to-vapor phase change, gas-evolving reactions, and solid-state material growth, involve the distribution of nucleation sites. However, a complete understanding of the process still needs to be discovered.

These limitations are due to the difficulty of probing micro/nanoscopic nucleation sites and the process’s insufficient statistical interpretation. Researchers used phase-enhanced environmental scanning electron microscopy to observe the distribution of nucleation sites in droplet condensation directly. They also use statistical theory to show that the Poisson distribution governs the population of these sites. In contrast, the nearest-neighbor distance is governed by the Rayleigh distribution rather than the Poisson distribution.

The researchers also demonstrate how these insights into these site distribution can be applied to hydrogen-evolving reactions and chemical vapor deposition. The platform advances the fundamental understanding of nucleation phenomena and guides design from materials to medical devices by combining precise characterization and theory.

Many natural and industrial processes, such as condensation, boiling, freezing, water splitting, and material growth, rely on heterogeneous nucleation. Quantifying the distribution of these sites, particularly, is important because it connects microscopic individual nucleation events to macroscopic system properties. In droplet condensation, for example, the distribution of nucleation sites influences the interaction mechanism and droplet size distributions, which determine overall heat transfer.

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