Deconstructing Temperature Gradients across Fluid Interfaces: The Structural Origin of the Thermal Resistance of Liquid-Vapor Interfaces

J Muscatello and E Chacon and P Tarazona and F Bresme, PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS, 119, 045901 (2017).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.119.045901

The interfacial thermal resistance determines condensation-evaporation processes and thermal transport across material-fluid interfaces. Despite its importance in transport processes, the interfacial structure responsible for the thermal resistance is still unknown. By combining nonequilibrium molecular dynamics simulations and interfacial analyses that remove the interfacial thermal fluctuations we show that the thermal resistance of liquid-vapor interfaces is connected to a low density fluid layer that is adsorbed at the liquid surface. This thermal resistance layer (TRL) defines the boundary where the thermal transport mechanism changes from that of gases (ballistic) to that characteristic of dense liquids, dominated by frequent particle collisions involving very short mean free paths. We show that the thermal conductance is proportional to the number of atoms adsorbed in the TRL, and hence we explain the structural origin of the thermal resistance in liquid-vapor interfaces.

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