Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Robert H. Pelton
Shiping Zhu, Michael A. Brook
Flotation is a critical operation in the isolation of valuable minerals from natural ore. Before flotation, chemical collectors are routinely added to ground ore slurries. Collectors selectively bind to mineral-rich particles, increasing their hydrophobicity thus promoting selective flotation. Conventional collectors are small surfactants with a short hydrocarbon tail (2-6 carbons) and a head group, such as xanthate. In this work, much larger hydrophobic polystyrene nanoparticles are evaluated as potential flotation collectors. Experiments involving both clean model mineral suspensions and complex ultramafic nickel ores confirm that conventional water-soluble molecular collectors could be partially or completely replaced by colloidal hydrophobic nanoparticle flotation collectors.
The ability of nanoparticles to induce flotation has been demonstrated by floating hydrophilic, negatively charged glass beads with cationic polystyrene nanoparticle collectors. Mechanisms and key parameters such as nanoparticle hydrophobicity and nanoparticle adsorption density have been identified. Electrostatic attraction promotes the spontaneous deposition of the nanoparticles on the glass surfaces raising the effective contact angle to facilitate the adhesion of beads to air bubbles. The pull-off force required to detach a glass sphere from the air/water interface of a bubble into the water was measured by micromechanics. Coating with nanoparticles allows the beads to attach remarkably firmly on the air bubble. As little as 10% coverage of the bead surfaces with the most effective nanoparticles could promote high flotation efficiencies, whereas conventional molecular collector requires 25% or higher coverage for a good recovery. Contact angle measurements of modified glass surfaces with a series of nanoparticles that covered a range of surface energies were used to correlate the nanoparticle surface properties with their ability to promote flotation of glass beads. Factors influencing nanoparticle deposition on glass, such as nanoparticle dosage, nanoparticle size, conditioning time have been investigated with a quartz crystal microbalance (QCM). Deposition kinetics has been analyzed according to Langmuir kinetics model.
Surface functionalized nanoparticles enhance the ability of nanoparticle collectors to selectively deposit onto surfaces of the desired mineral particles in the presence of gangue materials. Poly (styrene-co-vinylimidazole) based nanoparticle collectors have been developed to selectively deposit onto nickel mineral (pentlandite) in the presence of Mg/Si slime. Flotation tests of ultramafic nickel ores with these nanoparticle collectors have shown improvements in both pentlandite recovery and selectivity.
Yang, Songtao, "NANOPARTICLE FLOTATION COLLECTORS" (2012). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 6878.
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