Definition - What does Ebullition mean?

Ebullition is the continuous formation of bubbles which have sufficiently high surface tension to remain as bubbles beyond the disengaging surface. Ebullition is commonly used in industrial cleaning applications and in the preparation of building materials. It is also an often-unwanted byproduct in the manufacture of various substances. It can create serious problems in the chemical industry, especially for biochemical processes.

Petropedia explains Ebullition

Ebullition is also known as foam formation. Several conditions are needed to produce ebullition:

  • Mechanical work
  • Surface active components (surfactants) that reduce surface tension
  • Formation of foam faster than breakdown

Ebullition has a negative impact on industrial operations. For example, boiler water carryover is the contamination of steam with boiler-water solids. Bubbles or froth actually build up on the surface of the boiler water and pass out with the steam. This foaming is caused by high concentration of any solids in the boiler water. It is generally believed that specific substances such as alkalis, oils, fats, greases, suspended solids and certain types of organic matter are particularly conducive to foaming.

Chemical anti-foaming agents that modify the surface tension of a liquid are used to remove foam. Chemical methods of foaming control are not always desired where the product quality is of great importance. In order to prevent foaming, in such cases mechanical methods are usually preferred over chemical ones.

A broad spectrum of chemicals can act as foaming agents. They act as surfactants, reducing surface tension. In the oil industry, foaming agents are used whenever foam needs to be created or when a suspension of ingredients is being prepared as foam. For example, a product known as drilling foam is sometimes used in drilling and oil exploration.
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