A microfluidic method to study demulsification kinetics

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We present the results of experiments studying droplet coalescence in a dense layer of emulsion droplets using microfluidic circuits. The microfluidic structure allows direct observation of collisions and coalescence events between oil droplets dispersed in water. The coalescence rate of a flowing hexadecane-in-water emulsion was measured as a function of the droplet velocity and droplet concentration from image sequences measured with a high-speed camera. A trajectory analysis of colliding droplet pairs allows evaluation of the film drainage profile and coalescence time t(c.) The coalescence times obtained for thousands of droplet pairs enable us to calculate coalescence time distributions for each set of experimental parameters, which are the mean droplet approach velocity (v(0)), the mean dispersed phase fraction (f) and the mean hydraulic diameter of a droplet pair (d(p)). The expected value E(t(c)) of the coalescence time distributions scales as E(t(c)) is proportional to (v(0))(-0.105±0.043)(d(p))(0.562±0.287), but is independent of f. We discuss the potential of the procedure for the prediction of emulsion stability in industrial applications
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1060-1070
JournalLab on a Chip
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • simple shear-flow
  • size distributions
  • oil-emulsions
  • break-up
  • coalescence
  • drops
  • droplets
  • fluid
  • surfactants
  • suspensions

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