Journal of Colloid and Interface Science, Vol.537, 579-587, 2019
Effect of triblock copolymer surfactant composition on flow-induced phase inversion emulsification in a tapered channel
Hypothesis: Phase inversion emulsification (PIE) is a process that inverts the dispersed and continuous phases of an emulsion and is useful for preparing emulsions that are challenging to produce using conventional techniques. A recent work has shown that PIE can be induced by flowing an emulsion through a tapered channel. Although prior studies have shown that flow-induced PIE (FIPIE) is influenced by the flow conditions and wetting properties of the channel surface, little is known about the effect of surfactant structure on FIPIE. We hypothesize that FIPIE is affected by the composition and structure of the surfactant used for emulsion stabilization. Experiments: We use Pluronics, a series of ABA triblock copolymers composed of hydrophilic polyethylene oxide) (PEO) and hydrophobic poly(propylene oxide) (PPO) with various lengths (A = PEO, B = PPO), as model surfactants to test this hypothesis. We observe that triblock copolymer surfactants with long PEO blocks suppress FIPIE. A scaling analysis based on a polymer brush model qualitatively agrees with the experimental observation. We also show that for small molecular weight Pluronics, FIPIE is significantly suppressed when Pluronics with large PPO blocks are used. Findings: Our results strongly indicate that the steric repulsion provided by the PEO blocks as well as the dilatational elasticity provided by the PPO blocks are key factors that control the FIPIE process. (C) 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.