Sonoprocessing of oil: Asphaltene declustering behind fine ultrasonic emulsions.

Elia Colleoni, Gianmaria Viciconte, Chiara Canciani, Saumitra Saxena, Paolo Guida, William L. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Despite the transition toward carbon-free energy carriers, liquid fossil fuels are expected to occupy an important market share in the future. Therefore, it is crucial to develop innovative technology for better combustion reducing the emissions of pollutants associated with their utilization. Water in oil (w/o) emulsions contribute to greener combustion, increasing carbon efficiency and reducing emissions. Water content, emulsions stability, and droplet size distributions are key parameters in targeting the efficient use of emulsions as combustibles. In particular, for fixed water content, the finer the emulsion, the better its beneficial effect on combustion. In this work, two emulsions, mechanically and ultrasonically generated, were compared. Cryogenic scanning electron microscopy (cryo-SEM) allowed the visualization of water droplets inside the oily matrix. No surfactants were added to the oil, due to its high asphaltenic content. Asphaltene molecular aggregates, namely clusters, act as natural surfactants stabilizing the emulsions by arranging at w/o interface and forming a rigid film. The asphaltenic rigid film is clearly visualized in this work and compared for the two emulsions. The results showed finer water droplets in the ultrasonically generated emulsion, together with a reduction in the thickness of the asphaltenic film. Ultrasonically induced cavitation favored the de-clustering (breakage of intermolecular forces) of asphaltene molecules. Thus, smaller clusters allowed to stabilize smaller water droplets resulting in an ultra-fine emulsion, which improves the combustion performances of the fuel.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106476
JournalUltrasonics Sonochemistry
StatePublished - Jun 17 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemical Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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