Flow-induced nanostructuring of gelled emulsions
Although the phase behavior of emulsions has been thoroughly investigated, the effect of flow on emulsion morphology, which is relevant for many applications, is far from being fully elucidated. Here, we investigate an emulsion based on two common nonionic surfactants in a range of water concentration where complex and diverse microstructures are found at rest, such as multilamellar and bicontinuous phases. In spite of such complexity, once subjected to shear flow, all the emulsions investigated are characterized by thinning filaments which eventually break up into a concentrated suspension of micro-sized water-based droplets dispersed in a continuous oil phase. The so-formed droplets tend to align in string-like structures. The emulsions exhibit a yield stress, whose value can be estimated by the plug-core velocity profiles in pressure-driven capillary flow, thus providing evidence of weakly attractive interdroplet interactions. The latter are consistent with droplet clustering and percolation observed at rest. These results can also be relevant to the flow behavior of other liquid–liquid systems, such as polymer blends, where the flow-induced microstructure is under debate as well.