Thesis-2018-HusseinSheik.pdf (4.2 MB)

Electrokinetic phenomena in aqueous suspended films and foams

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posted on 04.07.2018 by Abdulkadir Hussein Sheik
Electrokinetic phenomena in liquid foams is at a junction between two areas. On one side is the investigation of liquid foam drainage, and on the other side is electrokinetics of surface driven flow on solid-liquid interfaces. However, the electrokinetic phenomena in liquid foam films significantly lack understanding. Therefore, the novelty of the thesis is to address the mentioned gap in three stages. The outcome has potential applications in a novel separation approaches of biological molecules such as proteins and DNA. In the first stage, the electrokinetic flow of a sufficiently thick (180 µm) free liquid film was investigated using cationic and anionic surfactants by confocal micron-resolution particle image velocimetry (µ-PIV). The reverse of the surface charge resulted in a shift in charge of the electrical double layer at the free liquid film interface, which caused the direction of the electroosmotic velocity to reverse. In each surfactant type used, the fluid velocity profiles were measured at different depths of the free liquid film (different z-planes). It was found how the fluid velocity varied with depth. Numerical simulations of the electroosmotic flow in the same system were also performed using Finite Element Method to understand the flow dynamics. A reasonably good agreement was found between the numerical simulations and the experimental results validating the model. In the second stage, instead of flow visualisation particles, rhodamine B (RB) and fluorescein isocyanate (FICT) dye were added to the free liquid film. Under the initial conditions of pH 7.2, RB is a neutral dye, and FICT has a -2 charge. Under an imposed electric field pH variations were detected and an interesting flow profile was observed. The CFD model developed earlier (stage one) was modified to include the local pH variation. The behaviour of the simulated pH had a good agreement with the behaviour of the FICT. Further confirmation of local pH variation was undertaken using extra new experiments which also showed a good agreed with the simulation. In the third stage, a liquid foam electrokinetic separation chamber was designed to extend the study to include practical applications. The first challenge was to achieve a stable foam under external electric field. A polymer-surfactant mixture can solve the stability problem. However, the mixture of polymers required an alkaline pH (>9) condition for the polymer mixture to be soluble in the aqueous system. Lectin and tetramethylrhodamine goat anti-rabbit (IgG) protein mixture with different molecular mass to charge ratio (50 kDa and 150 kDa) were injected near the anode. The system was monitored in three location: (a) in a vicinity of the injection region, (b) between the two electrodes and (c) in a vicinity of the cathode. In the region (a), a decay of the luminescence intensity of the fluorescein of the two proteins was noted with varying rate. In region (b), an increase followed by a decrease in fluorescein intensity of the proteins was observed again at a varying rate. In region (c), an increase of the dye concentration was observed and again at a different rate. The observed difference was caused by difference of the electrophoretic velocity of the two proteins. The setup proved that proteins could be separated based on their electrophoretic mobility inside a liquid foam. The findings from the thesis show the ability to manipulate fluid flow within a free liquid film, and inside a liquid foam system by an external DC electric field, is not only interesting academically but has potential application in a novel separation approach of biological molecules and beyond. The result show, with the correct surfactant formulation, it possible to make a stable foam under an electric field which can be set up for separation of proteins using foam electrokinetics.


Loughborough University, School of Aeronautical Automotive Chemical and Materials Engineering.



  • Aeronautical, Automotive, Chemical and Materials Engineering


  • Chemical Engineering


© Abdulkadir Hussein Sheik

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.