Molecular Dynamics Study on the Demulsification Mechanism of Water-In- Oil Emulsion with SDS Surfactant under a DC Electric Field

SY Li and SD Yuan and YW Zhang and HY Guo and S Liu and DS Wang and YD Wang, LANGMUIR, 38, 12717-12730 (2022).

DOI: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.2c02364

Application of an electric field is an effective demulsification method for water-in-oil (W/O) emulsions. For the W/O emulsions stabilized by anionic surfactants, the microscopic demulsification mechanism is still not very clear. In this work, the coalescence behavior of two droplets stabilized by the anionic surfactant sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) in the oil phase under a DC electric field is investigated by molecular dynamics simulation. The effects of electric field strength and oil type on the electrocoalescence of two water droplets are mainly considered. The trajectory snapshots and center of mass of the two water droplets suggest that there is almost no migratory coalescence. The movement of sodium ions and SDS, which is a combined effect of the electric field force and the resistance from the oil phase, is crucial for the deformation and connection of two water droplets. The results of mean square displacement, radial distribution function, hydration number, and interaction energies of Na+-H2O and SDS-H2O indicate that the sodium ion has a stronger ability to carry water molecules for movement than SDS. The stronger electric field strength will result in more severe deformation and shorter coalescence time. Under the higher electric field strength, the two droplets will be elongated into a slender water ribbon. By applying a pulsed DC electric field with suitable amplitude, frequency, and duty ratio, it is possible to achieve full coalescence for the ionic surfactant-stabilized W/O emulsions. The oil phase also plays an important role for the deformation of droplets and the migration of emulsion components. For the different oil phases, a longer time or stronger electric field strength would be needed for the electrocoalescence of droplets in the oil phase with higher density and viscosity. Our results are expected to be helpful for practical application in the petroleum industry and chemical engineering.

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