Ion adsorption-induced wetting transition in oil-water-mineralsystems

Friedrich Gunther Mugele, Bijoyendra Bera, Andrea Cavalli, Igor Sîretanu, Armando Maestro, Michael H.G. Duits, Martinus Abraham Cohen Stuart, Dirk van den Ende, Isabella Stocker, Ian Collins

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number10519
Number of pages8
JournalScientific reports
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2015


  • METIS-312109
  • IR-97584


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