nano particles, silica, zeta potential, agglomeration, diffuse layer, critical heat flux, concentration, pH, ionic strength, particle size


Addition of nano particles to cooling fluids has shown marked improvement in the heat transfer capabilities. Nanofluids, liquids that contain dispersed nanoparticles, are an emerging class of fluids that have great potential in many applications. There is a need to understand the fundamental behavior of nano dispersed particles with respect to their agglomeration characteristics and how it relates to the heat transfer capability. Such an understanding is important for the development and commercialization of nanofluids. In this work, the stability of nano particles was studied by measuring the zeta potential of colloidal particles, particle concentration and size. Two different sizes of silica nano particles, 10 nm and 20 nm are used in this investigation at 0.2 vol. % and 0.5 vol. % concentrations. The measurements were made in deionized (DI) water, buffer solutions at various pH, DI water plus HCl acid solution (acidic pH) and DI water plus NaOH solution (basic pH). The stability or instability of silica dispersions in these solutions was related to the zeta potential of colloidal particles and confirmed by particle sizing measurements and independently by TEM observations. Low zeta potentials resulted in agglomeration as expected and the measured particle size was greater. The heat transfer characteristics of stable or unstable silica dispersions using the above solutions were experimentally determined by measuring heat flux as a function of temperature differential between a nichrome wire and the surrounding fluid. These experiments allowed the determination of the critical heat flux (CHF), which was then related to the dispersion characteristics of the nanosilica in various fluids described above. The thickness of the diffuse layer on nano particles was computed and experimentally confirmed in selected conditions for which there was no agglomeration. As the thickness of the diffuse layer decreased due to the increase in salt content or the ionic content, the electrostatic force of repulsion cease to exist and Van der Waal's force of agglomeration prevailed causing the particles to agglomerate affecting the CHF. The 10nm size silica particle dispersions showed better heat transfer characteristics compared to 20nm dispersion. It was also observed that at low zeta potential values, where agglomeration prevailed in the dispersion, the silica nano particles had a tendency to deposit on the nickel chromium wire used in CHF experiments. The thickness of the deposition was measured and the results show that with a very high deposition, CHF is enhanced due to the porosity on the wire. The 10nm size silica particles show higher CHF compared to 20nm silica particles. In addition, for both 10nm and 20nm silica particles, 0.5 vol. % concentration yielded higher heat transfer compared to 0.2 vol. % concentration. It is believed that although CHF is significantly increased with nano silica containing fluids compared to pure fluids, formation of particle clusters in unstable slurries will lead to detrimental long time performance, compared to that with stable silica dispersions.


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Graduation Date





Kumar, Ranganathan


Master of Science in Materials Science and Engineering (M.S.M.S.E.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering

Degree Program

Materials Science and Engineering








Release Date

January 2006

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)