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Mechanical Properties of Hexadecane-Water Interfaces with Adsorbed Hydrophobic Bacteria Open Access


Other title
Hydrophobic bacteria
Microbial-enhanced oil recovery
Interfacial rheology
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Kang, Zhewen
Supervisor and department
Gray, Murray (Chemical & Mataterials Engineering)
Yeung, Anthony (Chemical & Mataterials Engineering)
Examining committee member and department
Liu, Qi (Chemical & Mataterials Engineering)
Foght, Julia (Biological Sciences)
Feng, James (Chemical & Biological Engineering)
Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Certain strains of hydrophobic bacteria are known to play critical roles in petroleum-related applications. The aim of this study was to investigate how hydrophobic bacteria in their stationary phase could adsorb onto the hexadecane-water interface and alter its mechanical properties. The two strains of bacteria used in forming the interfacial films were Acinetobacter venetianus RAG-1 (a Gram-negative bacterium) and Rhodococcus erythropolis 20S-E1-c (Gram-positive). Experiments at two different length scales (millimetre and micrometre) were conducted and the results were compared. In addition, a simple flow experiment was designed in a constricted channel and the results were related to the intrinsic mechanical properties of bacteria-adsorbed films. On the millimetre scale, using the pendant drop technique, the film interfacial tension was monitored as the surface area was made to undergo changes. Under static conditions, both types of bacteria showed no significant effect on the interfacial tension. When subjected to transient excitations, the two bacterial films exhibited qualitatively similar, yet quantitative distinct rheological properties (including film elasticities and relaxation times). Under continuous reduction of surface area, the RAG-1 system showed a “paper-like” interface, while the interface of the 20S-E1-c system was “soap film-like.” These macroscopic observations could be explained by the surface ultrastructures of the two cell strains. On the micrometre scale, using the micropipette technique, colloidal stability of the bacteria-coated oil droplets was examined through direct-contact experiments. Both types of bacteria were seen to function as effective stabilizers. In addition, the adsorbed bacteria also interacted with one another at the interface, giving rise to higher order 2-D rheological properties. A technique of directly probing the mechanical properties of the emulsion drop surfaces revealed that (a) the films behaved as purely elastic sheets, and (b) with a reduction in cell concentration in the aqueous phase, less oil was emulsified, but the elastic moduli of the adsorbed films remained unchanged. These results are in contrast to the above millimetre-scale study. Therefore the rheological properties of these bacteria-adsorbed films appear to be length scale-dependent. An oil displacement experiment was designed to investigate the flow behaviour of micron-scale emulsion drops in a constricted channel. The qualitative results can be correlated with the interfacial rheological properties and may have valuable relevance to the study of multiphase flow through constricted channels in porous rocks (e.g. in MEOR operations).
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