How Frost Forms and Grows on Lubricated Micro- And Nanostructured Surfaces

Lukas Hauer, William S.Y. Wong, Valentina Donadei, Katharina I. Hegner, Lou Kondic, Doris Vollmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Frost is ubiquitously observed in nature whenever warmer and more humid air encounters colder than melting point surfaces (e.g., morning dew frosting). However, frost formation is problematic as it damages infrastructure, roads, crops, and the efficient operation of industrial equipment (i.e., heat exchangers, cooling fins). While lubricant-infused surfaces offer promising antifrosting properties, underlying mechanisms of frost formation and its consequential effect on frost-to-surface dynamics remain elusive. Here, we monitor the dynamics of condensation frosting on micro- and hierarchically structured surfaces (the latter combines micro- with nano- features) infused with lubricant, temporally and spatially resolved using laser scanning confocal microscopy. The growth dynamics of water droplets differs for micro- and hierarchically structured surfaces, by hindered drop coalescence on the hierarchical ones. However, the growth and propagation of frost dendrites follow the same scaling on both surface types. Frost propagation is accompanied by a reorganization of the lubricant thin film. We numerically quantify the experimentally observed flow profile using an asymptotic long-wave model. Our results reveal that lubricant reorganization is governed by two distinct driving mechanisms, namely: (1) frost propagation speed and (2) frost dendrite morphology. These in-depth insights into the coupling between lubricant flow and frost formation/propagation enable an improved control over frosting by adjusting the design and features of the surface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4658-4668
Number of pages11
JournalACS Nano
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 23 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Materials Science
  • General Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy


  • condensation frosting
  • frost percolation
  • icing
  • slippery surface slips
  • thin film
  • wicking


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