Surfactant drag reduction is a promising technology to reduce the pumping power of district heating–cooling systems. Many investigations have been reported to give a clear prospect of the drag-reducing phenomenon. However, the mechanism of surfactant drag reduction and the microstructure of surfactant micelles are still left unknown. This study aims to provide an experimental evidence of the effect of counter-ions on the micelle structure and the surfactant drag reduction in a pipe flow. The present authors have been investigating the surfactant drag reduction with a cationic surfactant with suitable counter-ions (sodium salicylate). The effect of the molar ratio of the counter-ion to the cationic surfactant is discussed using the experimental results on the drag reduction in a turbulent pipe flow, on the micelle size and on the shear thinning–thickening viscosity. These experimental results suggest that a new drag-reducing state exists at very high molar ratios of the counter-ion to the surfactant. This new state gives a remarkable drag reduction, but shows very weak viscoelasticity. The optimum molar ratio to cause a strong viscoelasticity is (surfactant):(counter-ion) = 1:1.5, but at higher molar ratios, the elongational viscosity decreases, while high drag reduction effectiveness is kept. The micelle structure could be changed at higher counter-ion molar ratio, but this new structure may also be effective for drag reduction.
2004 The Society of Chemical Engineers, Japan