VALIDATION AND APPLICATION OF A FIRST PRINCIPLE FLOTATION MODEL
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A first principle flotation model has been derived from the basic mechanisms involved in the bubble-particle and bubble-bubble interactions occurring in flotation. It is a kinetic model based on the premise that the energy barrier (E1) for bubble-particle interaction can be reduced by increasing the kinetic energy (Ek) for bubble-particle interaction and by increasing the hydrophobic force in wetting films. The former is controlled by energy dissipation rate (𝜀), while the latter is controlled by collector additions. The model consists of a series of analytical equations to describe bubble generation, bubble-particle collision, attachment and detachment, froth recovery, and bubble coalescence in froth phase. Unlike other flotation models that do not consider role of hydrophobic force in flotation, the first principle model developed at Virginia Tech can predict flotation recoveries and grades from the chemistry parameters such as 𝜁-potentials, surface tension (𝛾), and contact angles (𝜃) that may represent the most critical parameters to control to achieve high degrees of separation efficiencies. The objectives of the present work are to i) validate the flotation model using the experimental data published in the literature, ii) incorporate a froth model that can predict bubble coarsening due to coalescence in the absence of particles, iii) develop a computer simulator for a froth model that can predict bubble coarsening in the presence of particles, and iv) study the effects of incorporating a regrinding mill and using a stronger collector in a large copper flotation circuit. The model validation has been made using the size-by-class flotation rate constants (kij) obtained from laboratory and pilot-scale flotation tests. Model predictions are in good agreement with the experimental data. It has been found that the flotation rate constants obtained for composite particles can be normalized by those for fully liberated particles (kmax), which opens the door for minimizing the number of flotation products that need to be analyzed using a costly and time-consuming liberation analyzer. A bubble coarsening froth model has been incorporated into the flotation model to predict flotation more accurately. The model has a limitation, however, in that it cannot predict bubble-coarsening in the presence of particles. Therefore, a new computer simulator has been developed to predict the effects of particle size and particle hydrophobicity on bubble coarsening in froth phase. In addition, the first principle flotation model has been used to simulate flotation circuits that are similar to the Escondida copper flotation plant to study the effects of incorporating a re-grinding mill and using a more powerful collector to improve copper recovery. The flotation model developed from first principles is useful for predicting and diagnosing the performance of flotation plants under different circuit arrangements and chemical conditions.
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