Hydrophobic Forces in Wetting Films
Flotation is an important separation process used in the mining industry. The process is based on hydrophobizing a selected mineral using an appropriate surfactant, so that an air bubble can spontaneously adhere on the mineral surface. The bubble-particle adhesion is possible only when the thin film of water between the bubble and particle ruptures, just like when two colloidal particles or air bubbles adhere with each other. Under most flotation conditions, however, both the double-layer and dispersion forces are repulsive, which makes it difficult to model the rupture of the wetting films using the DLVO theory.
In the present work, we have measured the kinetics of film thinning between air bubble and flat surfaces of gold and silica. The former was hydrophobized by ex-site potassium amyl xanthate, while the latter by in-site Octadecyltrimetylammonium chlroride. The kinetics curves obtained with and without theses hydrophobizing agents were fitted to the Reynolds lubrication theory by assuming that the driving force for film thinning was the sum of capillary pressure and the disjoining pressure in a thin film. It was found that the kinetics curves obtained with hydrophilic surfaces can be fitted to the theory with the disjoining pressure calculated from the DLVO theory. With hydrophobized surfaces, however, the kinetics curves can be fitted only by assuming the presence of a non-DLVO attractive force (or hydrophobic force) in the wetting films. The results obtained in the present work shows that long-range hydrophobic forces is responsible for the faster drainage of wetting film.
It is shown that the changes in hydrophobic forces upon the thin water film between air bubble and hydrophobic surface is dependent on hydrophobizing agent concentration, immersion time and the electrolyte concentration in solution. The obtained hydrophobic forces constant in wetting film K132 is compared with the hydrophobic forces constant between two solid surfaces K131 to verify the combining rule for flotation.