Foam drainage in the presence of nanoparticle-surfactant mixture

The drainage of SiO2 nanoparticle-cationic surfactant (TTAB) mixtures through calibrated aqueous foams had been studied by combining several approaches on both the macroscopic and the local scale. Macroscopic measurements reveal a strong stabilizing effect arising for nanoparticle concentrations as low as 2 wt % mainly because of a drainage kinetic slow-down dependent on the nanoparticle concentration. We show that the variation of the viscous parameters (bulk viscosity, interfacial viscosity, or both) in the classical theoretical models of foam drainage, mainly developed for aqueous surfactant solutions, does not enable Fitting experimental data obtained via steady- or free-drainage strategies for [SiO2] >= 2 wt %. In contrast, the quantitative analysis of the data obtained from front propagation velocities has revealed a drainage regime transition from a node-dominated regime toward a Plateau-border-dominated regime upon nanoparticle concentration increase. Observations performed at the Plateau border scale brought to light the drainage kinetic slow-down process by evidencing that the presence of insoluble aggregates induces traffic jamming and even cork formation for silica concentrations above 2 wt %. Considering these observations, a simple mechanism of aggregate growth and cork formation is proposed. Finally, we analyze the discrepancy between experiments (steady- and free-drainage methods) and theory by pointing out that the hypothesis relative to the foam structure that is usually assumed for both the liquid fraction calculation and the determination via conductivity measurements is strongly modified when large insoluble aggregates are present in the system. In this view, the method based on the liquid fraction determination through the measurement of the front propagation velocity seems to be the most suitable for studying the drainage of colloidal dispersion because of the lower dependence of this approach toward hypothesis on the local geometry of the foam continuous phase.

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