Silverson high shear in-line rotor–stator mixers are widely applied in industry for the manufacture of emulsion-based products but the current understanding of droplet breakage and coalescence in these devices is limited. The aim of this paper is to increase the understanding of droplet break-up mechanisms and to identify appropriate literature correlations for in-line rotor–stator mixers. Silicone oils with viscosities ranging from 9.4 to 969 mPa s were emulsified with surfactant in an in-line Silverson at rotor speeds up to 11,000 rpm and flow rates up to 5 tonnes/h. The effect of rotor speed, flow rate, dispersed phase fraction up to 50 wt%, inlet drop size and viscosity ratio on droplet size was investigated. It was found that rotor speed and dispersed phase viscosity have a significant effect on the droplet size, while flow rate, inlet droplet size, viscosity ratio and dispersed phase volume have a lesser effect. The results indicate that low viscosity droplets are broken by turbulent inertial stresses, while droplets smaller than the Kolmogorov length scale are broken by a combination of inertial and viscous stresses. It also appears that the weak dependence of drop size on flow rate enables the energy efficiency of an in-line high shear Silverson to be significantly improved by operating at as high a flow rate as possible.
Chemical Engineering Science Volume 66, Issue 10, 15 May 2011, Pages 2068-2079