A spontaneous nucleation model is proposed for the mechanisms which lead to explosive boiling in the free contacting mode. The model considers that spontaneous nucleation cannot occur until the thermal boundary layer is sufficiently thick to support a critical size vapor cavity, and that significant bubble growth requires an established pressure gradient in the cold liquid. This results in a prediction that, for an interface temperature above the spontaneous nucleation limit, large cold liquid droplets will remain in film boiling due to coalescence of vapor nuclei, whereas smaller droplets will be captured by the hot liquid surface and rapidly vaporize, which agrees with the experimental observations. The model also predicts that explosions are eliminated by an elevated system pressure or a supercritical contact interface temperature, and this is also in agreement with experimental data.

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