An Investigation of the Gas Dispersion Properties of Mechanical Flotation Cells: an In-Situ Approach
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Bubble size is considered to be one of the most important parameters affecting the performance of froth flotation cells. However, monitoring, controlling and predicting bubble size is a very challenging task. This dissertation presents results obtained from a comprehensive pilot- and industrial-scale experimental investigation of gas dispersion performance of two commercially available flotation cells. To facilitate this investigation, a continuous pilot-scale flotation system was developed and tested. The results of the hydrodynamic and metallurgical testing conducted on the pilot-scale flotation circuit are presented. In addition, an assessment of the impact of two commercially available rotor/stator mechanism designs on bubble generation was performed under non-coalescing conditions. Based on obtained results, the mechanisms of gas dispersion throughout the flotation cell and gas cavity formation behind the impeller blades have been presented and discussed. A new in-situ optical bubble sampling method was also developed as part of this investigation. The new system allowed an accurate estimation of local bubble sizes and determination of overall gas dispersion patterns within the cell. The new method was compared to the existing ex-situ bubble sampling method commonly used in industry. Two image analysis techniques were also evaluated, i.e., a template matching BubbleSEdit technique and the edge detection Northern Eclipse technique. Significant variations in bubble size as a function of the sampling method, sampling location, operating condition, machine type and image analysis method were observed. Generally, bubbles observed with the in-situ sampling method appeared to be larger than bubbles recorded with the ex-situ method. Furthermore, the mean bubble size determined by the Northern Eclipse bubble sizing method was smaller than the BubbleSEdit value. The experimental tests also revealed that sampling location had a strong effect on measured local mean bubble size and bubble size distribution in both vertical and horizontal directions. In addition, aeration rate was found to have a profound impact on the gas dispersion pattern in the cell and on local bubble size. Agitation rate also had a significant effect on bubble size, although the degree of impact strongly depended on the agitation level, chemical conditions in the cell and the machine type.
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