An experimental study about the imbibition of aqueous solutions of low concentration of a non-adsorbable surfactant in a hydrophilic porous medium.
ABSTRACT The imbibition of aqueous solutions of Triton X-100 in calcium fluoride columns has been studied in order to determine the influence of the interfacial adsorption of the surfactant in the capillary rise of the solutions. This system has been chosen because this surfactant behaves as non-adsorbable at the surface of this solid when it is in aqueous solution. The experiments have consisted of the measurement of the increase in the weight of the porous columns caused by the capillary rise of the solutions. The analysis of the results has been made through a modified expression of Washburn's equation that takes into account that the experimental increase in the weight is caused by the imbibition as well as by the development of a liquid meniscus around the bottom base of the columns. From this analysis, it has been deduced that the surfactant concentration does not influence on the imbibition rate, it being equal to the observed for water. However, it has been also proved that the contact angle depends on the surfactant concentration, taking decreasing values as the surface tension of the solutions decreases. In order to justify these findings, a study about the influence of the interfacial adsorption on the imbibition has been carried out. By means of them, it has been proved that the absence of adsorption at the solid-liquid interface is the reason that explains both the independence of the imbibition rate from the surfactant concentration and the decrease of the contact angle. Moreover, this fact indicates that the depletion of the surfactant molecules from the advancing meniscus, which has been normally adduced as the phenomenon causing the observed behaviour, has to be ruled out as the physical cause that justifies the behaviour found from the analysis of the imbibition experiments. As a corollary, it has been also stated that only if the adsorption at the solid interfaces happened, the imbibition of aqueous solution of surfactant in hydrophilic media could be influenced by the surfactant concentration.