Pipe flow of a dense emulsion: Homogeneous shear-thinning or shear-induced migration?



The flow field of a 70% concentrated noncolloidal o/w emulsion in a pipe has been investigated by means of Particle Image Velocimetry in a matched refractive index medium. At steady state and in laminar regime, the shape of axial velocity profiles is not parabolic and exhibits a shear-thinning behavior of the dense emulsion, with a flow index of 0.5 and a negligible yield stress (less than 1 Pa). However, instead of a square root law, the pressure drop increases linearly with Um. To explain this apparent inconsistency, two mechanisms of different nature are considered. The first originates from a possible relation between the consistency factor and the drop mean diameter. The second mechanism is shear-induced migration and leads to the development of a concentration gradient in the pipe cross section. Both mechanisms considered reconcile the experimental data, the apparent local shear-thinning behavior and the linear evolution of the pressure drop with the flow rate. © 2017 American Institute of Chemical Engineers AIChE J, 2017