The present invention is directed to the effects of applied electric fields on liquid-liquid dispersions. In general, the present invention is directed to the control of phase inversions in liquid-liquid dispersions. Because of polarization and deformation effects, coalescence of aqueous drops is facilitated by the application of electric fields. As a result, with an increase in the applied voltage, the ambivalence region is narrowed and shifted toward higher volume fractions of the dispersed phase. This permits the invention to be used to ensure that the aqueous phase remains continuous, even at a high volume fraction of the organic phase. Additionally, the volume fraction of the organic phase may be increased without causing phase inversion, and may be used to correct a phase inversion which has already occurred. Finally, the invention may be used to enhance mass transfer rates from one phase to another through the use of phase inversions.
This invention was made with Government support under Contract No. DE-AC05-96OR22464 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corp. and Contract No. DE-AC05-84OR21400 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to Lockheed Martin Energy Systems, Inc., and the Government has certain rights in this invention.