Physical restrictions of the flotation of fine particles and ways to overcome them
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Sofia University "Saint Kliment Ohridski"
Istanbul University-Cerrahpaşa
Adana Alparslan Türkeş Science and Technology University
The University of New South Wales
Istanbul Technical University
Medical University–Sofia
Publication date: 2022-09-09
Corresponding author
Stoyan Karakashev   

Sofia University "Saint Kliment Ohridski"
Physicochem. Probl. Miner. Process. 2022;58(5):153944
This work analyses the basic problems of the fine particles flotation and suggests new ways to overcome them. It is well accepted that the poor recovery of fine particles is due to the small collision rate between them and the bubbles due to the significant difference between their sizes. This common opinion is based on a theory, assuming in its first version a laminar regime, but later has been advanced to intermediate turbulence. It accepts that the particles are driven by the streamlines near the bubbles. In reality, the high turbulence in the flotation cells causes myriads of eddies with different sizes and speeds of the rotation driving both bubbles and particles. Yet, a theory accounting for high turbulence exists and states that the collision rate could be much higher. Therefore, we assumed that the problem consists of the low attachment efficiency of the fine particles. Basically, two problems could exist (i) to form a three-phase contact line (TPCL) the fine particle should achieve a certain minimal penetration into the bubble, requiring sufficient push force; (ii) a thin wetting film between the bubble and the particle forms, thus increasing the hydrodynamic resistance between them and making the induction time larger than the collision time. We assumed particles with contact angle θ = 80°, and established a lower size flotation limit of the particles depending mostly on the size of the bubbles, with which they collide. It spans in the range of Rp = 0.16 um to Rp = 0.40 um corresponding to bubbles size range of Rb = 50 um to Rb = 1000 um. Hence, thermodynamically the particle size fraction in the range of Rp = 0.2 um to Rp = 2 um are permitted to float but with small flotation rate due to the small difference between the total push force and maximal resistance force for formation of TPCL. The larger particles approach slowly the bubbles, thus exceeding the collision time. Therefore, most possibly the cavitation of the dissolved gas is the reason for their attachment to the bubbles. To help fine particles float better, the electrostatic attraction between bubbles and particles occurred and achieved about 92% recovery of fine silica particles for about 100 sec. The procedure increased moderately their hydrophobicity from θ ≈ 27.4° to θ ≈ 54.5°. Electrostatic attraction between bubbles and particles with practically no increase of the hydrophobicity of the silica particles ended in 47% recovery. All this is an indication of the high collision rate of the fine particles with the bubbles. Consequently, both, an increase in the hydrophobicity and the electrostatic attraction between particles and bubbles are key for good fine particle flotation. In addition, it was shown experimentally that the capillary pressure during collision affected significantly the attachment efficiency of the particles to the bubbles.
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