Development of a Novel Air Sparging Device
Hobert, Andrew Reid
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Column flotation is commonly employed in the processing and recovery of fine mineral particles due to an increase in flotation selectivity unattainable using conventional flotation methods. Such an increase in selectivity is due to the employment of wash water, minimizing hydraulic entrainment of fine gangue particles, and the presence of quiescent operating conditions assisted by the use of various air sparging technologies. High performance air spargers increase the probability of collision and attachment between air bubbles and particles, thereby improving recovery of fine and coarse mineral particles otherwise misplaced to the tailings fraction in conventional flotation cells. Although many high-pressure spargers, including the static mixer and cavitation tube, are currently employed for the aeration of column cells, a low pressure sparger capable of providing equivalent performance while resisting a reduction in aeration efficiency does not exist. In light of escalated energy requirements for operation of air compressors necessary to provide high pressure air to existing external and internal spargers, a low-pressure and porous sparger capable of resisting plugging and scaling was developed. Following the design, construction, and optimization of such a prototype, air holdup and flotation performance testing was completed to verify the viability of the sparger as a replacement to existing aerators. Performance evaluations suggest that the sparger is capable of providing similar functionality to currently employed sparging technologies, but further work is required with regards to manipulation of the porous medium to prevent sparger fouling and sustain high aeration efficiencies.
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