Controlled Scale Deposition to Enhance Boiling Heat Transfer

Technology #15714

Questions about this technology? Ask a Technology Manager

Download Printable PDF

Professor Kripa Varanasi
Department of Mechanical Engineering, MIT
External Link (
Christopher Love
Department of Mechanical Engineering, MIT
Managed By
Christopher Noble
MIT Technology Licensing Officer - Clean and Renewable Energy
Patent Protection

Methods for promoting nucleate boiling

US Patent 9,207,025


The current technology can be applied towards improving boiling processes in many industrial applications. This includes enhancing boiler and steam components such as tanks, pipes and reactors in facilities such as power plants, desalination systems or oil and gas fields. 

Problem Addressed

In many industrial applications, the process of boiling can result in unwanted byproducts (such as calcium sulfate in oil wells) accumulating on the boiling surface. This is known as scale formation, and it can create heating inefficiencies by reducing the thermal conductivity of the boiler.  Much expense is incurred to remove this scale, and the useful lifetime of the equipment is shortened. 


This invention finds that scale formation can in fact be positive for boiling, as it enhances a type of boiling called nucleate boiling. Nucleate boiling has a heat transfer coefficient of up to an order of magnitude greater than regular filmwise boiling. The presence of scale can thus improve boiling heat transfer, but only if this scale formation is deposited appropriately. 

The current technology proposes methods to maintain a scale deposit at a controlled thickness (e.g. below a maximum thickness, within a desired range, or in a certain pattern) that can improve the nucleation site density and bubble formation, which both serve to enhance nucleate boiling. These methods include applying a photoactive coating to promote scale growth, or controlling growth via water chemistry or mechanical removal. The technology also recommends a specific set of scale materials (e.g. calcium carbonate, barium sulfate), deposition thicknesses and deposition patterns that can promote this nucleate boiling.


  • Improved boiling heat transfer