The relative wettability of oil and water on solid surfaces is generally governed by a complex competition of molecular interaction forces acting in such three-phase systems. Herein, we experimentally demonstrate how the adsorption of in nature abundant divalent Ca2+ cations to solid-liquid interfaces induces a macroscopic wetting transition from finite contact angles (≈10°) with to near-zero contact angles without divalent cations. We developed a quantitative model based on DLVO theory to demonstrate that this transition, which is observed on model clay surfaces, mica, but not on silica surfaces nor for monovalent K+ and Na+ cations is driven by charge reversal of the solid-liquid interface. Small amounts of a polar hydrocarbon, stearic acid, added to the ambient decane synergistically enhance the effect and lead to water contact angles up to 70° in the presence of Ca2+. Our results imply that it is the removal of divalent cations that makes reservoir rocks more hydrophilic, suggesting a generalizable strategy to control wettability and an explanation for the success of so-called low salinity water flooding, a recent enhanced oil recovery technology.
|Publication status||Published - 14 Apr 2015|
Bera, B., Sîretanu, I., Maestro, A., Duits, M. H. G., Cohen Stuart, M. A., van den Ende, H. T. M., ... Collins, I. (2015). Ion adsorption-induced wetting transition in oil-water-mineral systems. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep10519