Development and Optimization of Novel Emulsion Liquid Membranes Stabilized by Non-Newtonian Conversion in Taylor-Couette Flow for Extraction of Selected Organic and Metallic Contaminants
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Extraction processes employing emulsion liquid membranes (ELMs), water-in-oil emulsions dispersed in aqueous phase, have been shown to be highly efficient in removing a variety of organic and inorganic contaminants from industrial wastewaters. As a result, they have been considered as alternative technologies to other more common separation processes such as pressure-driven membrane processes. Unfortunately, a widespread use of the ELM process has been limited due to the instability of emulsion globules against fluid shear. Breakup of emulsions and subsequent release of the internal receptor phase to the external donor phase would nullify the extraction process. Numerous studies have been, therefore, made in the past to enhance the stability of ELMs. Examples include adding more surfactants into the membrane phase and increasing the membrane viscosity. However, increased stability has been unfortunately accompanied by loss in extraction efficiency and rate in most reported attempts. The primary objective of this research is to apply the ELMs in a unique contacting device, a Taylor-Couette column, which provides a relatively low and uniform fluid shear that helps maintaining the stability of emulsion without compromising the extraction efficiency of a target compound. The ELM used in this study is made of membrane phase converted into non-Newtonian fluid by polymer addition, which provides additional uncommon remedy for the problem. This innovative ELM process was optimized to treat various types of simulated industrial wastewaters containing selected phenolic compounds and heavy metals. Experiments performed in this study suggested that the newly developed ELM process achieved exceptionally high overall removal efficiencies for the removal of these target compounds in relatively short contact time. Mechanistic predictive models were further developed and verified with the experimental data. Combined with the experimental data and novel mathematical predictive models, this study is expected to have a high impact on immediate practices of emulsion liquid membrane technologies in relevant industries.