For the creation of sub-micron emulsions in fluids of low viscosity the high pressure homogenizer (HPH) is usually chosen. One way of obtaining deeper knowledge of exactly what happens in the active region is to visualize it. In this work, a drop deformation and break-up visualization system based on a modified Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) system is described. The system reproduces the gap in a HPH and has been used with pressures up to 18 MPa and drops as small as 5 μm. The optics of the system are analyzed taking into account limiting factors such as the lens resolving power, the focal depth, and the duration of the laser pulses. It is shown that it is possible to resolve drops down to a few μm moving in excess of 100 m/s, and that the main limitations are the resolving power and in the focal depth of the objectives. Examples are shown from capillary drop creation and from the deformation and break-up of drops in a HPH. It can be concluded that in a HPH, the drops are only deformed to a limited extent in the inlet of the gap, and that all drop break-up occurs far downstream of the gap.
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