Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


More to droplets than meets the eye. Salads, shampoos and mining to benefit from theoretical research into droplets

How much effort does it take to understand the behaviour of oil droplets? A multi-disciplinary team of six researchers from the University of Melbourne has spent the best part of two years, and used AUS$300,000 of equipment to crack the problem.

But the result could be the improvement of the design and production of everyday products worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

They have developed a technique to measure the tiny forces between droplets in liquids. For the first time, the researchers can measure the attraction between oil droplets in water—and this has application for products ranging from milk and ice-cream to shampoos, drugs, and even mineral processing.

All these instances involve emulsions, the dispersion of droplets of oil through water.

“This was a truly multi-disciplinary effort,” says team member Dr Raymond Dagastine from the Particulate Fluids Processing Centre in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Melbourne.

“We had chemists, chemical engineers and mathematicians all working together because, not only did we have to figure out how to hold and push two tiny droplets together, and how to measure their interaction, but we also needed to interpret the information we collected.”

Raymond is one of sixteen early-career scientists selected from across Australia for the national competition Fresh Science. One of the Fresh Scientists will win a study tour to the UK where they will have the opportunity to present their work at the Royal Institution.

An experimental tool known as an Atomic Force Microscope was used to drive two oil droplets together in water very carefully at different speeds. The researchers developed a theoretical analysis to describe the collisions. In the end they were able to measure, understand and even predict how emulsion droplets interact with each other.

Emulsions are made of droplets of one liquid colliding with each other in another liquid.

Some droplets collide and bounce away, while others can collide and stick together or coalesce. It may seem simple, but the physics behind controlling whether the oil and water remain dispersed or how fast they separate is a key variable in the purification steps in pharmaceutical and minerals processing.

In addition, the separation that happens in salad dressing can be prevented from happening in products such as shampoo, milk and even ice cream. “It all could lead to improvements such as shampoos that clean better and mineral processing equipment that is smaller and more efficient,” Raymond says.

This work was recently published in Science the weekly journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Niall Byrne | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:

nachricht Lego-like wall produces acoustic holograms
17.10.2016 | Duke University

nachricht New evidence on terrestrial and oceanic responses to climate change over last millennium
11.10.2016 | University of Granada

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Greater Range and Longer Lifetime

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VDI presents International Bionic Award of the Schauenburg Foundation

26.10.2016 | Awards Funding

3-D-printed magnets

26.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

More VideoLinks >>>