Stirred cell membrane emulsification and factors influencing dispersion drop size and uniformity

Water-in-oil (w/o) and oil-in-water (o/w) emulsions were generated using 30-μm pore diameter surface membranes to investigate the factors influencing drop size, and the degree of uniformity of drop size distribution, using a stirred cell employing a simple paddle mounted above a circular disc membrane. The importance of the transitional radius, which is the radius at which the vortex around the unbaffled paddle stirrer changes from a forced vortex to a free vortex and the shear stress at the membrane surface below the stirrer is at its greatest, is demonstrated. Monosized emulsions were produced, with drop size distribution coefficient of variation values of 10% for o/w emulsions and 13.5% for w/o emulsions. These tests demonstrated that a membrane of reduced annular operating area (ringed membrane) produced a more monosized o/w emulsion than a membrane where the full area was used to generate the emulsion, without affecting the mean drop size. The improved size distribution was achieved while the transitional radius was located within the ringed annular section of the membrane. The force balance model, applied to drops formed at the surface of the membrane during emulsification, predicted the droplet diameter provided further drop break up within the stirred cell did not occur. Drop break up occurred at Reynolds numbers below 300 for both oil-in-water and water-in-oil dispersions. Therefore, for Reynolds numbers greater than this, an annular radial ring membrane can be designed to produce monosized droplets using the stirred cell at known continuous phase viscosities with predictable mean droplet size. This knowledge can be used as a design tool to produce monosized droplets of a specified size for various applications using simple stirred cell emulsification.

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