Coalescence dynamics in oil-in-water emulsions at elevated temperatures

Bera, Bijoy; Khazal, Rama; Schroën, Karin


Emulsion stability in a flow field is an extremely important issue relevant for many daily-life applications such as separation processes, food manufacturing, oil recovery etc. Microfluidic studies can provide micro-scale insight of the emulsion behavior but have primarily focussed on droplet breakup rather than on droplet coalescence. The crucial impact of certain conditions such as increased pressure or elevated temperature frequently used in industrial processes is completely overlooked in such micro-scale studies. In this work, we investigate droplet coalescence in flowing oil-in-water emulsions subjected to higher than room temperatures namely between 20 to 70 C. We use a specifically designed lab-on-a-chip application for this purpose. Coalescence frequency is observed to increase with increasing temperature. We associate with this observation the change in viscosity at higher temperatures triggering a stronger perturbation in the thin aqueous film separating the droplets. Using the scaling law for rupture time of such a thin film, we establish a mechanism leading to a higher coalescence frequency at elevated temperatures.