Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Chemical Engineering

Major Professor

Luis Garcia-Rubio, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Aydin Sunol, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Oscar D. Crisalle, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Julie Harmon,Ph.D.

Committee Member

Wilfrido Moreno, Ph.D


droplet characterization, spectroscopy, liquid-liquid systems, surfactants, dispersions


Particle Nucleation is the forcing function in the Emulsion Polymerization processes and it plays an important role in dictating the final properties of the latex produced. Identification of the main nucleation sites and characterizing them in terms of their size and composition is important for elucidating the mechanism of particle nucleation.

This research focuses on identifying the most likely nucleation locus in emulsion polymerization processes by characterizing the initial conditions of the reaction mixture. In order to achieve this objective, a methodology was devised, which used a non-reacting model emulsion system instead of the original emulsion. The model emulsion system selected has the same dispersion properties as that of the monomer emulsion system, but different optical properties. The model emulsion system enabled the study of the distribution of the emulsifier using Uv vis spectroscopy. This approach also eliminated the time constraint associated with sampling during a polymerization reaction. A quantitative deconvolution using the turbidity equation, was done on the transmission Uv vis spectra of the emulsions. This enabled the characterization of the emulsions in terms of their particle size distribution, particle number and the composition of the droplet populations comprising them.

The studies conducted provide the experimental evidence for a previously unidentified nano-droplet population of size range 30 to 100nm in diameter. To further support this experimental evidence, calculations were performed to obtain the emulsifier distribution over the nano-droplet population. The calculations suggest the probability of existence of the nano-droplet population to be much higher than the probability of the existence of the swollen micelles.

The results, depending upon the emulsification conditions, indicate the presence of about 15 % to 80% of the dispersed phase in the nano-droplet population. The large interfacial area offered by the nano-droplet population due to their high particle numbers and high percentage of the dispersed oil phase in them, make them the most probable particle nucleation loci in emulsion polymerization processes.

Designed experiments were performed to experimentally observe the changes in the nano-droplet populations. The effects of the process variables, namely pH, surfactant concentration and temperature, on the size and compositional characteristics of the nano-droplet population were investigated. The results suggested that the surfactant to oil ratio was the dominating factor governing the size and the weight percent of the dispersed phase in the nano-droplet population.