Behavior of Oil Droplets on an Electrified Solid Metal Surface Immersed in Ionic Surfactant Solutions

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The present study investigates the change in the shape of oil droplets immersed in an ionic surfactant solution when the droplets are in contact with metal surfaces to which an electrical potential is applied. The three-phase system of aqueous solution−oil−steel was subjected to low-voltage electric potentials, which resulted in sometimes dramatic changes in droplet shape and wetting. This electric potential was applied to the conductive steel surface directly, and the counter electrode was immersed in the solution. Changes in both the shape and wetting extent of hexadecane and phenylmethyl polysiloxane were observed for voltages between ±3.0 V in both sodium dodecyl sulfate and cetyl trimethylammonium bromide solutions. The droplets' behavior was opposite to what would be expected for traditional electrowetting. In one instance, hexadecane droplets in sodium dodecyl sulfate solutions with a voltage of −3.0 V, a rapid and repeating droplet elongation and detachment was observed. Additionally, the impact of the observed phenomena on electrowetting enhanced ultrasonication is presented to demonstrate the potential improvements in industrial ultrasonic cleaning processes. The observations lead to the possibility of employing simple electrowetting techniques in the removal of oil from metal surfaces in a manner that could greatly improve the environmental and economic performance of aqueous cleaning techniques.

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