The coalescence characteristics of oil droplets which are attached on flocs after coagulation is different from coalescence of droplets which are suspended in emulsions. The droplets attached on flocs are stationary and do not collide as those in emulsions. Objectives of this study were to investigate the change in size distribution of oil droplets that were attached on flocs after coagulation. The surface water–oil emulsion was prepared by mixing water, clay and ethyl benzene. Flocculation/coagulation experiments were conducted using standard jar test procedure and a polyelectrolyte. Microscopic images of flocs were taken at different times after the flocculation process and analyzed to characterize the changes in droplet size distribution as a result of coalescence and detachment of droplets from the flocs. Median droplet size increased during the first 40 h after the flocculation process and decreased after 45 h due to detachment of droplets from flocs. The number of droplets that were larger than 90 μm decreased over time. After 46 h, the flocs had very few oil droplets remaining attached and a significant fraction of the flocs settled to the bottom. Although the coalescence rate of oil droplets on flocs was slow, for oil–water separation applications, flocs should be removed from the solution as soon as possible to achieve higher separation efficiency of oil from the emulsion.
Keywords: coagulation - coalescence - droplet distribution - emulsions - flocculation - image analysis