A molecular dynamics study of collisional heat transfer to nanoclusters in the gas phase

Huan Yang, Guanyu Song, Christopher J. Hogan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Nanoclusters in the gas phase grow by condensation and coagulation, which heat up nanoclusters, creating thermal non-equilibrium with the surrounding gas. The extent of non-equilibrium for nanoclusters is dependent upon the rate of heating relative to the rate of cooling brought about by nanocluster-gas molecule collisions, hence the latter process plays an important role in nanocluster energy evolution during growth. We apply molecular dynamics simulations to investigate heat transfer between metal nanoclusters and gas molecules relevant to high temperature aerosol systems. In analysis, we first define a thermal reemission coefficient (TRC), which is a correction factor for the portion of energy possessed by reemitted gas molecules after collision. The TRC differs from the thermal accommodation coefficient (TAC), which is a correction factor for the maximum possible energy transfer rate from nanoclusters to gas molecules based on the diffusive collision model. We find the TRC is insensitive to nanocluster size but is affected by the nanocluster to gas temperature ratio and the nanocluster to gas atomic mass ratio. Comparison to the traditionally-defined TAC shows that the TAC is insensitive to temperature, a phenomenon that has been widely indicated in literature but not quantitatively explained. We show how the temperature insensitivity of the TAC arises because of the manner in which TRCs vary with both nanocluster and gas temperature, i.e. the manner in which the reemitted gas molecule energy from a surface varies with the temperature of that surface relative to that of the gas. In addition, while calculations ultimately reveal temperature insensitive TACs and justify their continued use in modeling gas-phase heat transfer, we argue that the TRC is more appropriate to calculate a priori in analyzing simulations; it is physically more realistic to first introduce a correction factor solely for the energy of reemitted gas molecules after a collision (as TRCs) instead of a correction factor applying to both the reemission energy and the initial energy (as TACs), as the latter is exactly calculable and independent of nanocluster properties. In line with prior work, for monoatomic gases we find the TAC decreases as the nanocluster to gas atomic mass increases, approaching 0.08 for gold nanoclusters in helium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105891
JournalJournal of Aerosol Science
StatePublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by Department of Energy Award No. DE-SC0018202.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Heat transfer
  • Molecular dynamics
  • Nanoclusters
  • Thermal accommodation


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