Chemical Engineering Help With Foam Separation

8.2 Foam Separation:

Foam separation can be divided into:

Foam fractionation is a chemical process in which hydrophobic (water hating) are separated preferentially from a liquid solution using rising foam columns. It is commonly used, albeit on a small scale, for the removal of organic waste from aquarium. It has much broader application in the chemical process industry and can be used for removal of surface active contaminants from waste water streams in addition to the enrichment of bio-products.

Froth flotation is a process for selectively separating the hydrophobic materials from the hydrophilic. This is used in various processing industries and this was first used in the mining industry.

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foam sepration

Froth flotation commences by crushing and grinding, which is used to increase surface area of ore for the subsequent processing and break the rocks into desired mineral and the gangue in a process known as liberation, which then has to be separated from desired mineral. The ore is ground into a fine powder and mixed with water to form the slurry. The desired mineral is rendered hydrophobic by the addition of collector chemicals or surfactants. The particular chemical depends on which mineral is being refined as for example, pine oil is used to extract copper. This slurry/pulp of hydrophobic mineral-bearing ore and gangue is then introduced to the water bath which is aerated and creating bubbles. The hydrophobic grains of mineral-bearing ore escape water by attaching to air bubbles, which rise to the surface, forming a foam/scum (more properly called a froth) which is removed and concentrated mineral is further refined.

Foam fractionation proceeds by two mechanisms:

  1. The target molecule get adsorbed to the bubble surface, and
  2. The bubbles form foam which travels up a column and is discharged to stream of foam fractionation
Rate at which certain non-ionic molecules can adsorb to bubble surface can be estimated by solving Ward-Tordai equation. The enrichment and recovery depend on hydrodynamic condition of the rising foam which is a complex system dependent upon the bubble size distribution, the stress state at gas-liquid interface, the rate of bubble coalescence, the gas rate interalia. The hydrodynamic condition is explained by the Hydrodynamic Theory of Rising Foam.

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