Rapid and efficient demulsification (destabilizing of an emulsion) processes of a water in oil (W/O) emulsion were carried out in a three-dimensional electric spiral plate-type microchannel (3D-ESPM). In this experiment, the demulsifying efficiency of emulsions by 3D-ESPM was compared with that by gravity settling, the factors influencing demulsifying efficiency were investigated, and the induction period, cut size and residence time in the demulsification process were studied. The results showed that in contrast to the gravity settling method, 3D-ESPM can directly separate the disperse phase (water) instead of the continuous phase (oil). The maximum demulsifying efficiency of W/O emulsion in a single pass through the 3D-ESPM reached 90.3%, with a microchannel height of 200 μm, electric field intensity of 250 V /cm, microchannel angle of 180°, microchannel with 18 plates and a flow rate of 2 mL /min. An induction period of 0.6 s during the demulsification process was simulated with experimental data fitting. When the residence time of emulsion in 3D-ESPM was longer than the induction period, its demulsifying efficiency increased as the increase of the flow velocity due to the droplet coalescence effects of Dean vortices in the spiral microchannel. For this device a cut size of droplets of 4.5 μm was deduced. Our results showed that the demulsification process of W/O emulsion was intensified by 3D-ESPM based on the coupling effect between electric field-induced droplets migration and microfluidic hydrodynamic trapping.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited