Adiabatic burst evaporation from bicontinuous nanoporous membranes
Evaporation of volatile liquids from nanoporous media with bicontinuous morphology and pore diameters of a few 10 nm is an ubiquitous process. For example, such drying processes occur during syntheses of nanoporous materials by sol–gel chemistry or by spinodal decomposition in the presence of solvents as well as during solution impregnation of nanoporous hosts with functional guests. It is commonly assumed that drying is endothermic and driven by non-equilibrium partial pressures of the evaporating species in the gas phase. We show that nearly half of the liquid evaporates in an adiabatic mode involving burst-like liquid-to-gas conversions. During single adiabatic burst evaporation events liquid volumes of up to 107 μm3 are converted to gas. The adiabatic liquid-to-gas conversions occur if air invasion fronts get unstable because of the built-up of high capillary pressures. Adiabatic evaporation bursts propagate avalanche-like through the nanopore systems until the air invasion fronts have reached new stable configurations. Adiabatic cavitation bursts thus compete with Haines jumps involving air invasion front relaxation by local liquid flow without enhanced mass transport out of the nanoporous medium and prevail if the mean pore diameter is in the range of a few 10 nm. The results reported here may help optimize membrane preparation via solvent-based approaches, solution-loading of nanopore systems with guest materials as well as routine use of nanoporous membranes with bicontinuous morphology and may contribute to better understanding of adsorption/desorption processes in nanoporous media.