Influence of Interfacial Gas Enrichment on Controlled Coalescence of Oil Droplets in Water in Microfluidics

Interfacial gas enrichment (IGE) of dissolved gases in water is shown to govern the strong attraction between solid hydrophobic surfaces of an atomic force microscopy (AFM) colloidal probe and solid substrate. However, the role of IGE in controlling the attraction between fluid–fluid interfaces of foam films and emulsion films is difficult to establish by AFM techniques because of the extremely fast coalescence. Here, we applied droplet-based microfluidics to capture the fast coalescence event under the creeping flow condition and quantify the effect of IGE on the drainage and stability of water films between coalescing oil droplets. The amount of dissolved gases is controlled by partially degassing the oil phase. When the amount of dissolved gases (oxygen) in oil decreases (from 7.89 to 4.59 mg/L), the average drainage time of coalescence significantly increases (from 19 to 50 ms). Our theoretical quantification of the coalescence by incorporating IGE into the multilayer van der Waals attraction theory confirms the acceleration of film drainage dynamics by the van der Waals attractive force generated by IGE. The thickness of the IGE layer decreases from 5.5 to 4.9 nm when the amount of dissolved gas decreases from 7.89 to 4.59 mg/L. All these results establish the universal role of dissolved gases in governing the strong attraction between particulate hydrophobic interfaces.