Thermal conductivity and viscosity of selfassembled alcohol/polyalphaolefin nanoemulsion fluids
 Jiajun Xu^{1},
 Bao Yang^{1}Email author and
 Boualem Hammouda^{2}
DOI: 10.1186/1556276X6274
© Xu et al; licensee Springer. 2011
Received: 4 November 2010
Accepted: 31 March 2011
Published: 31 March 2011
Abstract
Very large thermal conductivity enhancement had been reported earlier in colloidal suspensions of solid nanoparticles (i.e., nanofluids) and more recently also in oilinwater emulsions. In this study, nanoemulsions of alcohol and polyalphaolefin (PAO) are spontaneously generated by selfassembly, and their thermal conductivity and viscosity are investigated experimentally. Alcohol and PAO have similar thermal conductivity values, so that the abnormal effects, such as particle Brownian motion, on thermal transport could be deducted in these alcohol/PAO nanoemulsion fluids. Small angle neutronscattering measurement shows that the alcohol droplets are spheres of 0.8nm radius in these nanoemulsion fluids. Both thermal conductivity and dynamic viscosity of the fluids are found to increase with alcohol droplet loading, as expected from classical theories. However, the measured conductivity increase is very moderate, e.g., a 2.3% increase for 9 vol%, in these fluids. This suggests that no anomalous enhancement of thermal conductivity is observed in the alcohol/PAO nanoemulsion fluids tested in this study.
Introduction
Nanofluids, i.e., colloidal suspensions of solid nanoparticles, and more recently, nanoemulsion fluids have attracted much attention because of their potential to surpass the performance of conventional heat transfer fluids [1–22]. The coolants, lubricants, oils, and other heat transfer fluids used in today's thermal systems typically have inherently poor heat transfer properties which have come to be reckoned as the most limiting technical challenges faced by a multitude of diverse industry and military groups. A number of studies have been conducted to investigate thermal properties of nanofluids with various nanoparticles and base fluids. However, the scientific community has not yet come to an agreement on the fundamental effects of nanoparticles on thermal conductivity of the base fluids. For example, many groups have reported strong thermal conductivity enhancement beyond that predicted by Maxwell's model in nanofluids [1, 2, 23, 24]. Consequently, several hypotheses were proposed to explain those unexpected experimental results, including particle Brownian motion, particle clustering, ordered liquid layer, and dualphase lagging [18, 21, 25–28]. Recently, however, an International Nanofluid Property Benchmark Exercise reported that no such anomalous enhancement was observed in nanofluids [22].
In this study, nanoemulsion fluids of alcohol in polyalphaolefin (PAO) are employed to investigate the effects of nanodroplets on the fluid thermal conductivity and viscosity. These fluids are spontaneously generated by selfassembly. The dependence of thermal conductivity and viscosity on droplet concentration has been obtained experimentally in these nanoemulsion fluids. The droplet size is determined by the small angle neutronscattering (SANS) technique.
Nanoemulsion heat transfer fluids
Nanoemulsion fluids are suspensions of liquid nanodroplets in fluids, which are part of a broad class of multiphase colloidal dispersions [17, 29, 30]. The droplets typically have length scale <100 nm. The nanoemulsion fluid can be formed spontaneously by selfassembly without need of external shearinduced rupturing. These nanodroplets are in fact swollen micelles in which the outer layer is composed of surfactant molecules having hydrophilic heads and hydrophobic tails. It should be stressed that the nanoemulsion fluids are thermodynamically stable, unlike conventional (macro) emulsions.
Nanoemulsion fluids could serve as a model system to investigate the effects of particles on thermophysical properties in nanofluids because of their inherent features: (1) their superior stability, (2) their adjustable droplet size, (3) thermal conductivity and volume concentration of droplets can be accurately determined, etc.
Results and discussion
SANS measurement
Thermal conductivity characterization
where p is the applied electric power, ω is the frequency of the applied electric current, l is the length of the metal wire, and T_{2ω} is the amplitude of temperature oscillation at frequency 2ω in the metal wire. One advantage of this 3ωwire method is that the temperature oscillation can be kept small enough (below 1 K, compared to about 5 K for the hotwire method) within the test liquid to retain constant liquid properties. Calibration experiments were performed for hydrocarbon (oil), fluorocarbon, and water at atmospheric pressure. The literature values were reproduced with an error of <1%.
where k_{o} is the thermal conductivity of the base fluid, k_{p} is the thermal conductivity of the particles, and ϕ is the particle volumetric fraction. Equation (2) predicts that the thermal conductivity enhancement increases approximately linearly with the particle volumetric fraction for dilute nanofluids or nanoemulsion fluids (e.g., ϕ <10%), if k_{p} > k_{o} and the particle shape remains unchanged. The solid line in Figure 3 represents the relative thermal conductivity evaluated from Equation (2). It can be seen that the measured thermal conductivity is in good agreement with the prediction of Maxwell's equation in the alcohol/PAO nanoemulsion fluids. The very small increase in thermal conductivity (<2.3%) is due to the fact that the thermal conductivity of alcohol is very slightly larger than that of PAO, k_{PAO} = 0.143 W/mK, and k_{alcohol} = 0.171 W/mK at room temperature. No strong effects of Brownian motion on thermal transport are found experimentally in those fluids although the nanodroplets are extremely small, around 0.8 nm.
Viscosity characterization
Unlike the thermal conductivity, the viscosity of the alcohol/PAO nanoemulsion fluids is found to be altered significantly because of the dispersed alcohol droplets. A commercial viscometer (Brookfield DVI Prime) is used for the viscosity measurement. The dynamic viscosity is found to be 7.3 cP in the pure PAO, which compares well with the literature value [32].
The viscosity increase of dilute colloids can be predicted using the Einstein equation, μ_{eff}/μ_{0} = 1 + 2.5φ [39]. This equation, however, underpredicts slightly the viscosity increase in the alcohol/PAO nanoemulsion fluids, as can be seen in Figure 4. This discrepancy is probably because the droplet volume fraction, ϕ, used in the viscosity calculation does not take into account the surfactant layer outside the alcohol core. That is, the actual volume fraction of droplets should be larger than the fraction of alcohol in the alcohol/PAO nanoemulsion fluids.
Conclusion
The nanoemulsion fluids of alcohol in PAO are employed to investigate the effects of the dispersed droplets on thermal conductivity and viscosity. Alcohol and PAO have similar thermal conductivity values at room temperature and are physically immiscible. SANS measurements are conducted for the in situ determination of the droplet size in the nanoemulsion fluids. The fluid thermal conductivity is measured using the 3ωwire method. As predicted by the classical Maxwell model, the increase in thermal conductivity is found to be very moderate, about 2.3% for 9 vol% loading, in the alcohol/PAO nanoemulsion fluids. This suggests that the thermal conductivity enhancement due to particle Brownian motion is not observed experimentally in these nanoemulsion fluids although the nanodroplets are extremely small, around 0.8 nm in radius. Unlike thermal conductivity, the viscosities of the alcohol/PAO nanoemulsion fluids are found to increase significantly due to the dispersed alcohol droplets.
Abbreviations
 NCNR:

NIST Center for Neutron Research
 PAO:

polyalphaolefin
 SANS:

small angle neutron scattering.
Declarations
Acknowledgements
This study is financially supported by the Department of Energy (grant no. ER46441). The SANS measurements performed at the NISTCNR are supported in part by the National Science Foundation under Agreement No. DMR0454672.
The identification of commercial products does not imply endorsement by the National Institute of Standards and Technology nor does it imply that these are the best for the purpose.
Authors’ Affiliations
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