Coalescence of small bubbles with surfactants

Jiakai Lu, Carlos Corvalan, Yong-Min Chew, Jen Yi Huang

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Bubble coalescence is central to many important technological processes, such as separations, cleaning of oil spills, microfluidics, emulsification and foaming. It is well known that surfactants, which are frequently present as additives or contaminants, delay coalescence by slowing the drainage of the liquid film separating the approaching bubbles before they make contact. However, the coalescence and surfactant transport mechanisms developed after surfactant-laden bubbles make initial contact remain poorly understood. Here, we characterize these mechanisms using high-fidelity numerical simulations to predict the evolution of bubble interfaces, surfactant spreading, and induced Marangoni flows. Our results show that the surfactant initially accumulates on the tiny meniscus bridge formed between the coalescing bubbles due to the rapid and highly localized contraction of meniscus area. At the same time, a Marangoni-driven convective flow is generated at the interface, which drags the accumulated surfactant away from the joining meniscus and toward the back of the bubbles. Together, these transport mechanisms affect the rate bubble coalescence by dynamically modifying the local pull of surface tension on the bubble interfaces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-500
Number of pages8
JournalChemical Engineering Science
Early online date3 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2019


  • Microbubble Surfactant Interface Simulation Transport phenomena Coalescence


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