Drop Size Distribution Analysis of Mechanically Agitated Liquid-Liquid Dispersions

  • Sergio Carrillo De Hert

Student thesis: Phd


Many daily life products consist of mixtures of oil and water. When an immiscible material is dispersed an interface in-between the two phases is created which gives rise to rheological phenomena which can be exploited for product formulation; this is the case in products such as hand-creams and food products. Furthermore emulsions are used to transport hydrophobic materials, for example, many pharmaceuticals are injected as emulsions into the bloodstream. The performance of such products depends on their microstructure, which is determined by its formulation and how its constituents are mixed together; therefore the microstructure depends on the properties of the dispersed phases, the emulsifier used, the equipment used and its processing conditions. Emulsified products are seldom mono-dispersed due to the complex drop breakup mechanism in the turbulent fields inside the equipment in which the phases are forced together. The chaotic breakup mechanism of highly viscous dispersed phases yield complex and broad drop size distributions (DSD) as a result of the dominating viscous cohesive stresses inside the parent drop. Former studies have used the Sauter mean diameter and/or the size of the largest drop as the characteristic measure of central tendency of the DSD to correlate their results and to prove mechanistic or phenomenological models; however these parameters in isolation are insufficient to characterise the whole DSD of highly polydisperse emulsions. In this dissertation a vast amount of silicon oils of different viscosity were used as dispersed phase to study the effect of various processing conditions and formulations on the resulting DSD. The effect of several formulation and processing parameters were studied for two different mixing devices: stirred vessels and in-line high-shear mixers. (1) For stirred vessels, the effect of stirring speed, continuous phase viscosity and dispersed phase volume fraction were studied in combination with the viscosity of the dispersed phase for steady-state systems. (2) For in-line high-shear mixers a model that links batch and multi-pass continuous emulsification for multimodal DSD was derived from a transient mass balance. Processing parameters such as time and volume, flow rate and number of passes through the mixer, and stirring speed were studied for a wide dispersed phase viscosity range. The analytical methodology implemented included the use of one or more probability density functions to describe the shape of the DSD. The models proposed gave reasonable approximations of the Sauter mean diameter and allowed to study the drop size changes and the relative amount of different types of drops resulting from different breakup mechanisms.
Date of Award1 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPeter Martin (Supervisor) & Thomas Rodgers (Supervisor)


  • Continuous Emulsification
  • Batch Emulsification
  • Stirred vessel
  • Rotor-stator
  • Viscosity
  • Drop break-up

Cite this