Structure and strength of depletion force induced particle aggregates

Yao De Yan, Janine L. Burns, Graeme J. Jameson, Simon Biggs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Aggregating fine particulate matter is common practice in many industrial solid-liquid separation processes. Data obtained in this work on dilute aqueous dispersions of model colloidal polystyrene latex spheres indicate that depletion flocculation, which uses non-adsorbing polymer, can yield very compact aggregates. Flocculation of the negatively charged latex particles was induced by the addition of a poly(acrylic acid) at pH 10. The structural compactness of the latex flocs formed in the dilute dispersions was characterized using small-angle static light scattering in terms of mass fractal dimensions. Rheological measurements on the concentrated latex dispersions in the presence of the non-adsorbing polyacid showed Bingham yield stress behaviour. Both the compactness and strength of the latex flocs were found to be significantly dependent upon the level of the polyacid, as well as the concentration of the initial particles. In particular, as the level of the polyacid was raised the floc compactness decreased, whereas its strength increased. They were both seen to level off at high polymer concentrations. Atomic force microscopy measurements were made at varying concentrations of the polyacid to provide a qualitative explanation of the observed floc structural behaviour of the dilute dispersions. By combining the fractal dimension and the Bingham yield stress we were also able to estimate the energy required to separate the flocs into single units in the concentrated dispersions. It was concluded that the interparticle interaction energy is the key to understanding the dependence of both the floc structure and strength on the polymer concentration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-30
Number of pages8
JournalChemical Engineering Journal
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2000
Externally publishedYes


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