In industry the effective mixing and de-agglomeration of two solid particles is vital in applications that require the intimate contact of homogeneously mixed reagents. One such application is in the preparation of pyrotechnic delay elements with reproducible burn speeds. The concept of surfactant assisted particle micro-mixing is proposed. This theory is based in the use of two amphiphilic polymeric surfactants to form two separate stable dispersions of the two solid particles to be mixed, but with the subsequent requirement that the dispersants are able to interact with each other. The formation of the individual dispersions allows for the deagglomeration of the particles and thus their preparation for homogeneous mixing, which is facilitated by the interacting surfactants. Low molecular mass block copolymers of styrene and acrylic acid and poly( ethylene oxide)-poly(propylene oxide) (PEO-PPO) surfactants are the proposed dispersants which will allow for the surfactant interaction by means of hydrogen bonding between the poly(acrylic acid) block and the PEO. The poly(styrene-co-acrylic acid) block copolymer will be synthesised via Atom Transfer Radical Polymerisation (ATRP) and subsequently used in the dispersion experiments. The synthesis of the polystyrene macroinitiators to initiate the block copolymerisation of the t-butyl acrylate was carried out satisfactorily, with good molecular masses and molecular mass distributions. In addition, lH-NMR analysis carried out on the polystyrene macroinitiators confirmed their synthesis. The use of the polystyrene macroinitiators was successful in synthesising poly(styrene-co-t-butyl acrylate) block copolymers with slightly higher polydispersities in comparison to the macroinitiatiators themselves, but acceptable. Hydrolysis of the poly(styrene-co-t-butyl acrylate) block copolymer to poly(styrene-co-acrylic acid) was successful in the presence of trifluoroacetic acid as catalyst. Attempts to hydrolyse in basic conditions (NaOH) and alternatively in acidic conditions (HCI) were not successful. Use of the poly(styrene-co-acrylic acid) amphiphilic block copolymer to emulsion polymerise styrene requires the ionised form of the polymer and was therefore not favourable to observe surfactant-surfactant hydrogen bonding. In addition, attempts to synthesise a wax emulsion stabilised by a PEO containing surfactant proved to be unsuccessful. Subsequently, the micro-mixing experiments were carried out by using a poly(acrylic acid) stabilised melamine dispersion and a commercially available PEO containing surfactant stabilised wax emulsion. The interaction between the melamine and the poly(acrylic acid) allows for the formation of a stable melamine dispersion at above 7% poly(acrylic acid) : melamine ratio (mass basis). Analysis by SEM shows that without the poly( acrylic acid) dispersant no wax particles are found to occur on the melamine particle surface. However, in an attempt to determine whether the amount of wax interaction increases with poly(acrylic acid) content, it was found that in the absence of poly(acrylic acid) dispersant, the most amount of wax precipitated out with the melamine. This is possibly attributable to the preferential occlusion of the wax particles between the melamine particles rather than surface attachment. Introduction of the poly(acrylic acid), however, shows via SEM analysis that the hydrogen bond interaction between the acrylic acid group and the ethylene oxide group does occur, since the attachment of the wax particles on the melamine particle surface is observed. Although results show that the surfactant-surfactant interaction allows for the micro¬mixing of particles, some refinement is required with respect to the systems that this phenomenon can be applied to. In addition, factors such as particle type, particle size and surfactant type will influence the micro-mixing interaction. It is therefore recommended that these factors be investigated in order to completely identify the micro-mixing phenomenon.
Dissertation (M Eng (Chemical Engineering))--University of Pretoria, 2006.