Geometry is a determining factor for thermal performance in both biological and technical systems. While biology has inspired thermal design before, biomimetic translation of leaf morphology into structural aspects of heat exchangers remains largely unaddressed. One determinant of plant thermal endurance against environmental exposure is leaf shape, which modulates the leaf boundary layer, transpiration, evaporative cooling, and convective exchange. Here, we lay the research groundwork for the extraction of design principles from leaf shape relations to heat and mass transfer. Leaf role models were identified from an extensive literature review on environmentally sensitive morphology patterns and shape-dependent exchange. Addressing canopy sun–shade dimorphism, sun leaves collected from multiple oak species exceeded significantly in margin extension and shape dissection. Abstracted geometries (i.e., elongated; with finely toothed edges; with few large-scale teeth) were explored with paper models of the same surface area in a controlled environment of minimal airflow, which is more likely to induce leaf thermal stress. For two model characteristic dimensions, evaporation rates were significantly faster for the dissected geometries. Shape-driven transfer enhancements were higher for the smaller models, and finely toothed edges reached local cooling up to 10 °C below air temperature. This investigation breaks new ground for solution-based biomimetics to inform the design of evaporation-assisted and passively enhanced thermal systems.
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