Revealing the physicochemical mechanism for ultrasonic separation of alcohol–water mixtures

Kirpalani, D. M.; Toll, F.
August 2002
Journal of Chemical Physics;8/22/2002, Vol. 117 Issue 8, p3874
Academic Journal
The selective separation of ethanol from ethanol-water mixtures by ultrasonic atomization has been reported recently by Sato, Matsuura, and Fujii [J. Chem. Phys. 114, 2382 (2001)]. In that work, experimental data were reported that confirmed the generation of an ethanol-rich droplet mist and attempted to explain the selective separation in terms of parametric decay instability of the capillary wave formed during sonication. In the present work, an alternate mechanism based on the conjunction theory has been postulated for the process of ultrasonic atomization. This mechanism involves the formation of cavitating bubbles in the liquid during sonication and their eventual collapse at the liquid surface into a cloud of microbubbles that moves upwards in a capillary fountain jet. The selective separation of alcohols has been explained as a corollary effect of the physical mechanism resulting in a surface excess of alcohol molecules formed at the surface of the microbubbles. The alcohol molecules vaporize into the microbubbles and release an alcohol-rich mist on their collapse in regions of high accumulation of acoustic energy.


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