Demulsification performance and mechanism of oil droplets by electrocoagulation: Role of surfactant

Chengzhi Hu , Liang Wang , Ben Zhang , Bin Zhao , Saiguo Yang , Kun Wu , Jingqiu Sun


Received September 22, 2021,Revised , Accepted December 14, 2021, Available online December 27, 2021

Volume 34,2022,Pages 171-180

Surfactants are widely used to improve the solubility of oil in water in petrochemical, making it more difficult to remove oil–water emulsions during the water treatment process. Electrocoagulation (EC) is an appropriate method for treating oily wastewater and destabilizing emulsions. However, the demulsification mechanism of oil–water droplets emulsified by surfactants with different charges have not been investigated systematically. The demulsification performance of electrocoagulation on emulsions wastewater containing cationic, non-ionic, and anionic surfactants was studied. The results showed that the removal rate of total organic carbon (TOC) in oily wastewater with anionic surfactant by EC reached 92.98% ± 0.40% at a current density of 1 mA/cm2, while that of the non-ionic surfactant was 84.88% ± 0.63%. The characterization of flocs showed that EC has the highest coagulation and demulsification of oil droplets with a negative charge on the surface (−70.50 ± 10.25 mV), which indicated that the charge neutralization of oil droplets was beneficial for the destabilization of the formed oily flocs. However, when the zeta potential of the oil droplets reached 75.50 ± 1.25 mV, the TOC removal efficiency was only 11.80% ± 1.43%. The TOC removal could achieve 33.23% ± 3.21% when the current density improved from 1 mA/cm2 to 10 mA/cm2. The enhanced removal was due to the sweep coagulation rather than charge neutralization. This study provides a fundamental basis for the electrochemical treatment of oily wastewater.

Copyright © Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Published by Elsevier B.V. and Science Press. All rights reserved.京ICP备05002858号-3