When it comes to emulsification and solubilisation, our aim is to help you deal with the many challenges faced when formulating in the current climate of changing legislation and environmental concerns.
Oil, Water and Emulsions
Do you need to clean an oil, or stabilise it in your formulation? If so, then you need an emulsion! An emulsion is a stable mixture of two or more immiscible liquids. In every emulsion there is a continuous phase that suspends the droplets of the other element, which is called the dispersed phase. In an oil-in-water emulsion, the continuous phase is the water and the dispersed phase is the oil while in a water-in-oil emulsion the oil is the continuous phase. The orientation of the emulsifier changes depending on the emulsion type – see Figure 1 below.
Applications for Emulsion Technology
Oil in Water
Water in Oil
Figure 1: Emulsion types
The HLB system is designed for non-ionic surfactants, with the ratio between the hydrophile (the part that loves water) and the lipophile (the part that loves oil) giving you the Hydrophile/ Lipophile balance, or HLB value. In order to gain optimum formulation performance you need to match the HLB values of the surfactant used to clean the soil, with that of the target soil (oil) – see Figure 2. If the surfactant HLB is correctly matched with the required oil HLB then a stable emulsion is formed. There are a range of different formulations that combine both oil and water phases, where emulsion technology is critical to deliver high performance, these include:
Figure 2: Gaining maximum formulation performance by matching HLB values
The HLB system can be used to great effect when a specific type of soil is being targeted - this is known as emulsification cleaning. This can be of great help in providing more efficient and effective cleaning formulations, by matching the surfactant system to the problem soil to provide better cleaning results. Emulsification cleaning is more suitable for applications where there is a specific type of soil to clean, usually an oily or fatty soil. An example of this type of cleaning is shown in the case study below.
An industrial customer that processes long chain fatty acids and alcohols found that their standard cleaning process was not good enough as hard, waxy solids were being left behind in the vessels and pipework. They had difficulty removing the solids, causing cross contamination of batches, which resulted in expensive filtration processes to decontaminate their products.
They needed a new cleaning formulation to give them better results, with low foam, low hazards, low cost and a clean in place type approach.
Design an emulsifier blend to give enhanced cleaning with fewer rinses.
After just one rinse there were large differences in performance, with the emulsification blend resulting in improved cleaning.
Download our HLB guide to get more information on the detailed theory and application of the HLB system, with real-life examples and formulation guides. Or alternatively download our HLB selector tool – a quick and easy guide to match surfactant HLB values with common oils you may encounter. We can provide samples to help get you started with formulating using the HLB principle, or offer detailed technical advice so please contact us below.
What is Solubilisation?
In simple terms solubilisation is a perfectly clear emulsion. This means that the particle size of the dispersed micelle phase is small enough to be invisible.
In the HI&I industry, common oils that require solubilising are things like:
Solubiliser Usage, Optimisation and Choice
The required HLB to solubilise an oil is usually at the top of the scale, around 13-18. However, quite often single products work well for solubilisation, rather than a combination. Traditional liquid solubilisers, such as our Tween™ grades can be very effective, but we have also developed specific products that work very efficiently in some situations:
Solubiliser choice typically comes down to balancing the desired benefits – physical from, dissolution, natural/green criteria and most importantly performance. Surfactants in a formulation may also help to act as solubilisers, so this could help to decrease the number of ingredients in your formulation and may even avoid nasty hazard labelling.
If you need help selecting a suitable solubiliser for your formulation then please contact us below – our team of technical experts are always happy to help!
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