Current oil-water separation methods require a significant power, a high processing time, and costly equipment, which typically yield low treatment efficiency. Pulsed direct current (dc) electric fields and recently nonuniform electric fields caught considerable attention in the petroleum industry research in order to address the most common oil-water separation issues such as chain formation, partial coalescence, and low efficiency in either the energy consumption or coalescence rate. Here, a contact-less charge injection method induced by corona discharge is utilized to investigate the impacts of nonuniform and pulsed dc electric fields on the coalescence of water droplets inside an oil medium. The operating process parameters were experimentally calibrated and optimized with the goal of increasing the effectiveness and energy consumption efficiency of the coalescence process. High-speed imaging and image processing techniques were used in order to investigate the effect of different active forces (i.e., dipole-dipole interaction, migratory coalescence, or electrophoresis, and dielectrophoresis) during the coalescence process. Different pulsed dc frequencies and pure dc waveforms were utilized and their impact on the coalescence of water droplets was investigated. An optimal coalescence recipe was proposed by continuous measurement of the distance, velocity, and acceleration of the coalescing water droplets. The results of this study suggest use of pulsed dc and pure dc electric fields for coalescence of water droplets in concentrated and dispersed emulsions, respectively.
© 2020 American Chemical Society.