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Enhanced settling of fine silica by indirect A.C. electrocoagulation

Minerals & Metallurgical Processing , 2011, Vol. 28, No. 3, pp. 117-125

Ifill, R.O.; Etsell, T.H.


Alternating current electrocoagulation (AC/EC) may be an alternative to chemical coagulation in the thickening of tailings in the mineral, coal and petroleum industries. In the current study, ground silica (d50 as received, 20 µm) served as the model tailings solid with characteristically poor settling behavior. Its natural initial settling rate was 1.6 x 10-3 cm/min. This paper discusses the indirect application of AC/EC via aluminum electrodes to the enhancement of the settling behavior of the silica. “Indirect AC/EC” means that the silica was coagulated upon dispersion in water that had been treated by AC/EC. The effect of AC/EC retention time on settling behavior is examined and the water chemistry is analyzed. Test results show that the initial settling rate of silica was enhanced by a factor of 4,000 at its maximum of 6.4 cm/min, under the conditions employed. Settling enhancement was achieved upon contact between the AC/EC-treated water and the silica, and the enhanced initial settling rate was dictated by the floc size. The aluminum dosage increased with AC/EC retention time, reaching a maximum concentration that was equivalent to 13.1% of that predicted by Faraday’s law. Complex aluminum ions are considered to have adsorbed onto the silica surface and an adsorption mass ratio of 0.3 mg Al/g silica was the most effective in enhancing settling behavior. Owing to pH change or slow kinetics, aluminum hydroxide precipitation did not lower the ion product ([Al3+][OH-]3) below the KSP of 6.3 x 10-32.