The flocculation efficiency of polydisperse polymer flocculants

Y. D. Yan, S. Glover, G. J. Jameson, S. Biggs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

61 Citations (Scopus)


The flocculation performance of three poly(acrylic acid) (PAA) samples (Mw=9×104, 2.5×105 and 1×106 g/mol) has been investigated. Colloidal alumina particles were used as a model system and tests were performed at pH 5. Using a single-component polyacid, it was found that the optimum dosage required to achieve supernatant clarity was similar between the 9×104 g/mol PAA (23 ppm) and 2.5×105 g/mol PAA (26 ppm), but increased dramatically with the 1×106 g/mol PAA (83 ppm). For the two lower molecular weight samples, flocculation occurs through a charge neutralisation mechanism. In contrast, polymer bridging is inferred to be the dominant flocculation mechanism for the high molecular weight sample. The flocculation performance of a polymer mixture, produced by blending the high and low molecular weight polyacids to give an average molecular weight of 2.5×105 g/mol, was also studied. Supernatant clarity from this system was found to be comparable to that from the single-component polyacid of the same (average) molecular weight. However, the optimum dosage required for the polymer mixture was about twice as much as that for the single-component reference polymer. The results suggest that for the polymer mixture no synergistic effects occur. Instead, analyses of aggregate sizes indicate an independent behaviour for the two polymers in the blend. We also examined re-suspension (under shear) and re-flocculation of the sediment formed in the initial flocculation experiments. For the three single-polymer systems, rapid re-flocculation after shear was seen for the two lower molecular weight samples suggesting a reversible aggregate breakage. For the high molecular weight sample, re-suspension resulted in the formation of a stable dispersion. This result was attributed to breakage of the high molecular weight polymer sample during re-suspension. In the case of the polymer mixture, rapid re-flocculation was again observed despite the presence of a large amount of the high molecular weight sample. This result may have important practical implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-175
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Mineral Processing
Issue number2-4
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2004
Externally publishedYes

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