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Powder Technology

journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/powtec

Chao Li , Kym Runge, Fengnian Shi, Saeed Farrokhpay

Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre, The University of Queensland, 40 Isles Road, Indooroopilly, Queensland 4068, Australia

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:

Received 14 December 2015

Received in revised form 8 February 2016

Accepted 10 February 2016

Available online 13 February 2016

Keywords:

Froth rheology

Bubble size

Fraction of lamellae covered by solids

Flotation

a b s t r a c t

Froth otation is a widely used process of particle separation exploiting differences in surface properties. The

froth performance in a otation cell is expected to be affected by the froth rheology, as it affects the froth residence time that determines the probability of recovery of valuable minerals in the froth phase. Flotation froths

have a similar structure to the gasliquid foams whose rheology has been widely studied. However, to date,

very little work has been done in the rheology of otation froths owing to their instability and the presence of

solid particles (on bubble surfaces and in the plateau borders) that are believed to inuence froth rheology

and complicate any investigation. In this paper, the effects of froth properties on froth rheology were studied

by examining the results of 33 otation tests performed under various conditions that resulted in changes in

the froth properties and, consequently, the froth rheology. The experiments were performed in a 20 L continuous

otation cell. It was found that the bubble size and the fraction of lamellae covered by solids dened the froth

rheology, while the presence of particles in the plateau borders contributed very little to the froth rheology. A

model structure was developed by taking into account froth properties to predict froth viscosity.

2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

In otation, the froth phase plays the role of transporting the hydrophobic minerals from the collection zone to the concentrate launder.

Froth transportation consists of both vertical and horizontal motion:

the vertical motion is dened by the ow of bubbles that carry particles

moving from the pulpfroth interface to the launder lip level, while the

horizontal motion describes the motion towards the overow weir [1].

Drainage of valuable minerals occurs during froth transportation owing

to bubble bursting and bubble coalescence. Froth residence time, which

determines the probability of recovery of valuable minerals, is a function of the time bubbles take to move both vertically and horizontally.

The vertical motion is driven by the supercial gas velocity. The horizontal ow is a consequence of three factors that include the force of

gravity, the froth stability and the resistance to froth ow. The inuence

of the froth stability on the efciency of froths in recovering valuable

minerals has been extensively studied [25]. The resistance to froth

ow is supposed to be directly associated with froth rheology, and,

therefore, the importance of froth rheology on otation performance

has also been recognised. Shi and Zheng [6] and Farrokhpay [7] have

clearly shown that froth rheology can affect the froth mobility as

well as the froth stability, and ultimately inuence the otation performance. However, to date, it is not clear what froth properties affect froth rheology.

Rheology is a measure of the ow characteristics of a substance. It is

usually represented by a rheogram which plots the shear stress of a uid

Corresponding author.

E-mail address: c.li7@uq.edu.au (C. Li).

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.powtec.2016.02.018

0032-5910/ 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

exhibit Newtonian or non-Newtonian behaviour, with the latter including dilatant, plastic, pseudo-plastic and Bingham behaviours [8,9].

Various types of rheograms are illustrated in Fig. 1. Viscosity as a key

rheological term is a measure of the resistance of a material to deformation. It is a constant in Newtonian ow but shear rate dependent in nonNewtonian ow.

In order to fully understand what froth properties determine the

froth rheology, it is rstly necessary to gain insight into the froth characteristics. From the study of aqueous foams, when the gas volume fraction is less than 0.73, bubbles disperse in the liquid phase without

becoming attached to one another; at a gas volume fraction greater

than 0.73, the bubbles start to pack and are separated by thin-planeparallel lms forming polyhedral cells (lamellae) [10]. The thin lamellae

meet in lines (plateau borders) and the lines meet at vertices [11,12].

Flotation froth has a similar structure to dry foam. The air volume fraction in otation froth usually exceeds 0.90 especially in deep froth due

to rapid drainage. Furthermore, otation froth is a gasliquidsolid regime; there are solid particles present in the froth phase. Hydrophobic

particles are mainly attached to the lamellae while both hydrophilic

and hydrophobic particles (detached owing to bubble coalescence and

bubble bursting) are present in the plateau borders and vertices. A typical froth structure with particles is shown in Fig. 2.

Flotation froths have a similar structure to foams, making it possible

to begin the study of froth rheology by considering the rheology of

foams (i.e. leaving aside the presence of solid particles). Practically,

foam rheology is associated with bubble size and foam quality (the volume fraction of air in the foam) [1316]. When foam is dry, its rheology

is dominated by the bubble size [15,17]. However, a otation froth

56

Fig. 1. Schematic diagram of shear rate as a function of shear stress for different types of uid.

After Mewis and Wagner [8].

in the plateau borders and vertices form the local solidliquid suspension. According to the study of suspension rheology, the solids volume

fraction in the suspension inuences the rheology [19]. Hence, whether

the solids volume fraction in the plateau borders and vertices is also a

crucial factor affecting froth rheology needs to be investigated.

Previously, the authors have investigated the effects of various otation conditions (viz. froth height, gas rate, impeller speed, feed particle

size and feed grade) on froth rheology. A Central Composite Rotatable

Design (CCRD) study was carried out, in which 33 otation tests were

performed in a 20 L continuously-operated otation cell [20]. The froth

rheology was measured using a method developed recently by the authors [21]. Ultimately, the otation conditions inuence the froth rheology through their effect on the froth properties. In this current work, the

results of the previous experiments (from the CCRD study) are examined

to fundamentally investigate the direct effect of the froth properties on

froth rheology. The froth properties of interest were identied above as

bubble size, fraction of lamellae covered by solids and the solids volume

fraction in the plateau borders and vertices. The method of evaluating

these froth properties is developed below.

2. Experimental

differs from a two phase foam in that there are also solid particles

present both as attached particles on the lamella of the bubble surface

and in the plateau borders which form between the bubbles. It is not yet

clear how the presence of solid particles affects the rheology of otation

froths. The hydrophobic particles attached on the lamellae in otation

froth function as the surfactant adsorbed on the interface lm in aqueous foam. The surfactant adsorbed on the interface lm lowers the interface tension and resists bubble coalescence, stabilizing the foam. The

presence of surfactant on the lm is characterized as its adsorbing thickness [18]. In this study, the presence of solid particles attached to the lamellae can be represented by the fraction of lamellae covered by solid

particles which takes into account the mass of solid particles attached

to the lamella per unit area and the size distribution of the solid particles. It is expected that the particles on the lamellae change the bubble

rigidity and smoothness. In addition, the particles trapped unselectively

After Ventura-Medina and Cilliers [10].

hydrophobic particle).

The 33 otation tests were performed in a bottom driven 20 L otation

cell with cross sectional dimensions of 30 by 30 cm. Table 1 shows the details of the 33 tests in which there are seven repeat tests (i.e. Tests 1, 9, 10,

12, 18, 19, and 26). The aim of this work is to create otation froths with

different froth properties and evaluate the effects of these froth properties

on the froth rheology.

The otation feed was a mixture of pure chalcopyrite and silica. The

chalcopyrite was purchased from Geo Discoveries as bulk rock. The

Table 1

The conditions in the CCRD otation tests [19].

Test

Froth

height

(cm)

Supercial

gas velocity

(cm/s)

Impeller

speed

(rpm)

Chalcopyrite

particle size

P80 (m)

Copper

grade (%)

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

7

6

6

8

6

6

6

6

7

7

8

7

8

8

8

6

8

7

7

8

8

6

7

5

7

7

7

7

7

7

9

7

7

1.4

1.0

1.8

1.8

1.0

1.8

1.0

1.8

1.4

1.4

1.8

1.4

1.0

1.8

1.0

1.8

1.8

1.4

1.4

1.0

1.0

1.0

1.4

1.4

0.6

1.4

1.4

1.4

1.4

2.2

1.4

1.4

1.4

900

750

1050

750

750

750

1050

1050

900

900

750

900

1050

1050

750

750

1050

900

900

750

1050

1050

900

900

900

900

1200

900

600

900

900

900

900

80

50

50

50

110

50

50

110

80

80

110

80

110

110

110

110

50

80

80

50

50

110

140

80

80

80

80

80

80

80

80

80

20

1.0

1.4

1.4

1.4

0.6

0.6

0.6

0.6

1.0

1.0

0.6

1.0

0.6

1.4

1.4

1.4

0.6

1.0

1.0

0.6

1.4

1.4

1.0

1.0

1.0

1.0

1.0

1.8

1.0

1.0

1.0

0.2

1.0

57

73 m). Before each otation test, a measured quantity of the chalcopyrite was ground to the targeted particle size distribution, mixed with silica to achieve the desired feed grade, and diluted with Brisbane tap

water in a conditioning tank. The solids concentration was maintained

at 40 wt.% in all the tests. Sodium ethyl xanthate (2.0 g/t) and Dowfroth

250 (14.7 ppm) were used as the collector and the frother, respectively.

The otation tests were operated continuously in a closed circuit by

recycling the concentrate and tailing. Samples of the feed, concentrate

and tailings were collected, and weighed before and after drying.

Sub-samples were assayed for copper to determine the otation recovery. The concentrate ow rates in terms of mass and volume were also

measured.

A pictorial diagram of the experimental set-up is shown in Fig. 3.

More details of the experiments may be found in previous work [20].

size and the froth velocity prole towards the cell launder lip. A single

light source was mounted above the froth surface as this results in a

single bright light on each bubble a requirement of the froth analysis

algorithm. An Anglo-Platinum bubble sizer was used to measure the

bubble size in the pulp at the end of each test.

solids volume fraction in the plateau borders needs the value of the

gas hold-up in the froth. Researchers [1,23] have found that water and

particles drop back into the pulp phase mainly just above the froth

pulp interface, above which the froth phase is relatively constant in

terms of its properties. Hence, the mean gas holdup in the froth above

the lip level remains relatively constant.

In a continuous and stable otation process, the froth phase is in dynamic equilibrium. Air bubbles, particles and water continuously enter

the froth phase from the pulpfroth interface and ow over the launder

lip. Some air is lost from the froth surface during its transportation to the

launder lip (Fig. 4). By assuming that the drainage in the upper froth

phase is negligible, the gas hold-up in the upper froth zone can be

regarded as the ratio of the air ow rate to the total froth ow rate (including air, water and solids). The froth ow rate consists of the air ow

rate (VA) and the concentrate slurry ow rate (Vcs). As the gas entrained

into the tailings is negligible [24], the air ow rate is equal to the air aerated into the otation cell. The air ow rate and the concentrate slurry

ow rate were both measured; hence, the mean gas holdup (f) in the

upper froth zone can be calculated by Eq. (1).

vane (22 mm diameter and 16 mm height) attached to an air-bearing

rheometer (Anton Paar DSR301). A tube (74 mm diameter and 150 mm

height) was used to encircle the vane to eliminate the effect of the horizontal froth ow [21]. The vane was positioned in the middle of the cell

with its upper edge immersed 2 cm into the froth. During the froth rheology measurement, the torque values were measured by evenly increasing

the vane speed from 1 rpm to 15 rpm in equal increments (i.e. 1.0 rpm,

4.5 rpm, 8.0 rpm, 11.5 rpm and 15.0 rpm), with a 5 s interval between

each measuring point. A total of ve torque values were measured in

each test. Each series of torque measurements was replicated ve times

to determine the average value. The variation of the torque measurement

at each speed was determined and found to be reasonably low [20].

The vane was only immersed in the froth for the period of the rheology

measurements and then moved away not to impede the otation froth

movement.

2.3. Froth and pulp bubble characterization

A digital video camera (Sony ACC-FV50B) was mounted above the

otation cell to record the froth movement. The video images were

analysed by a contracted software [22] to determine the froth bubble

This section introduces the methods of estimating a number of froth

properties, viz. gas hold-up, fraction of lamellae covered by solids and

the solids volume fraction in the plateau borders and vertices. To perform the estimations, some assumptions were made based on reasoning

provided in the literature.

3.1. Gas hold-up (gas volume fraction)

VA

V A V cs

58

the concentrate is roughly equal to the mass ow rate of chalcopyrite from the pulp to the froth.

Rc R f

100

Rc R f 1Rc

The bubble surface area ow rate entering the froth phase can be determined by using the bubble surface area ux (Sb) which is a measure

of the fresh bubble surface area per cross-sectional area being supplied

to the cell. It is determined by the supercial gas velocity (Jg) and Sauter

mean bubble diameter (D32) as shown in Eq. (3) [27]. The cell crosssectional area (A) is known. Hence the bubble surface area ow rate in

the pulp (p) can be calculated by Eq. (4).

Sb

6J g

D32

p Sb A

To calculate the fraction of lamellae covered by solids, the mass of

solid particles attached to the lamellae per unit area (i.e. bubble

loading) and the size distribution of particles needs to be known.

The bubble loading in the froth phase can be derived from the bubble loading in the pulp phase. The estimation of bubble loading in

this work is based on the assumption that particles that detached

through bubble bursting and bubble coalescence do not reattach

on the lamellae in the froth phase. This assumption can be supported by some previous studies. Vera, Franzidis and Manlapig

[25] reported that froth recovery was unselective; thus, detached

chalcopyrite particles stay in the plateau borders and vertices with

no reattachment occurring. This is consistent with the nding reported by Ventura-Medina and Cilliers [11], who concluded that

the recovery of hydrophobic minerals in otation concentrate mainly came from the plateau borders and vertices because of bubble

bursting and bubble coalescence, indicating that reattachment was

not signicant.

Silica, a hydrophilic mineral, does not attach on bubble surfaces

and is recovered into the froth phase by entrainment, which contributes negligibly to bubble loading. Hence, bubble loading is associated with hydrophobic chalcopyrite particles only. In the pulp

phase, the chalcopyrite particles attached onto dispersed bubble

surfaces are transported to the froth phase. As a result of the quick

drainage of water in the froth, bubbles start to attach to one another.

Given that bubbles are densely packed in the froth phase, each lamella is shared by two neighbouring bubbles. The particles originally attached on dispersed bubble surfaces redistribute on lamellae.

Consequently, the bubble loading in the froth phase is double that

in the pulp phase.

Bubble loading in the pulp phase can be calculated as the ratio of

the mass ow rate of chalcopyrite entering the froth phase to the

bubble surface area ow rate entering the froth phase. The mass

ow rate of chalcopyrite entering the froth phase is equal to the

mass ow rate of chalcopyrite in the nal otation concentrate

when the drainage of chalcopyrite in the froth phase is negligible.

This is a reasonable assumption when the nal otation recovery

is close to 100%. As shown in Eq. (2), otation recovery (R) is determined by both pulp recovery (Rc) and froth recovery (Rf) [26]. Froth

recovery must be close to 100% when otation recovery is close to

100%, and therefore drainage from the froth will be minimal. Once

chalcopyrite particles are recovered into the froth phase, they will

survive to be in the nal concentrate. As shown in Table 2, recoveries in the otation tests were high (mostly N 85%). It is therefore a

reasonable assumption that the mass ow rate of chalcopyrite in

from the measured mass ow rate of solids in the concentrate (c) and

the copper concentrate grade (G). It is known that the recovery of hydrophobic minerals from the pulp phase is mainly by true otation, which

means that the collection of hydrophobic minerals by entrainment in

the pulp phase is limited. Thus, the bubble loading in froth phase (LB)

can be calculated from Eq. (5), where 2.89 is the ratio of the molecular

weight of chalcopyrite to the atomic weight of copper. As mentioned before, the bubble loading in the froth phase is double that in the pulp phase,

which is reected by the number 2 in Eq. (5). It should be pointed out

that this method may underestimate the absolute bubble loading (as

Table 2

Data required for calculation.

Test

R (%)

Jg

(cm/s)

D32

(cm)

vf

(cm/s)

h

(cm)

c

(g/s)

G (%)

Vw

(cm3/s)

P50

(m)

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

93.73

89.90

98.30

95.51

93.83

93.56

93.53

94.38

94.40

94.42

95.44

94.57

78.51

92.35

95.05

95.48

91.87

94.52

85.35

81.38

90.72

85.26

91.63

92.11

76.62

93.04

89.05

94.37

95.89

97.26

93.99

89.71

92.87

1.4

1.0

1.8

1.8

1.0

1.8

1.0

1.8

1.4

1.4

1.8

1.4

1.0

1.8

1.0

1.8

1.8

1.4

1.4

1.0

1.0

1.0

1.4

1.4

0.6

1.4

1.4

1.4

1.4

2.2

1.4

1.4

1.4

0.043

0.048

0.053

0.051

0.048

0.051

0.048

0.053

0.043

0.043

0.051

0.043

0.048

0.053

0.048

0.051

0.053

0.043

0.043

0.048

0.048

0.048

0.043

0.043

0.058

0.043

0.042

0.043

0.057

0.048

0.043

0.043

0.043

5.54

3.10

4.87

4.95

3.93

5.31

4.05

5.67

5.48

5.35

5.12

5.65

3.93

5.39

3.80

5.30

4.40

5.98

6.15

1.99

3.01

2.16

2.96

6.22

1.57

5.96

6.02

5.69

5.72

6.64

6.00

4.74

5.24

2.30

2.40

2.80

2.50

1.40

2.20

1.90

2.10

2.00

2.00

1.90

1.90

2.10

2.30

1.80

2.10

2.60

2.00

2.10

1.80

2.90

1.30

0.80

2.10

1.20

2.30

1.90

3.10

2.10

2.50

2.20

1.50

2.90

14.82

7.63

19.82

11.45

10.47

14.05

11.58

13.68

13.50

16.99

13.75

15.49

10.57

12.65

11.82

9.02

4.17

16.01

16.84

1.97

4.79

4.79

5.46

17.35

5.19

16.66

15.78

16.44

12.78

17.37

12.19

7.27

11.45

8.15

11.67

4.56

9.25

3.42

2.08

2.82

2.65

7.61

8.30

3.04

6.17

3.83

10.98

12.74

10.95

6.91

6.50

5.30

9.57

15.97

21.31

12.71

4.37

13.34

6.78

7.71

12.38

13.17

6.58

11.34

1.74

6.53

56.03

28.75

59.06

36.33

32.21

47.80

42.19

52.50

50.34

53.58

44.99

50.22

36.03

44.19

33.81

31.49

23.51

56.09

56.43

11.34

18.85

12.21

21.15

58.68

14.93

56.20

59.06

58.06

43.06

63.15

48.17

37.35

49.11

10.21

8.44

10.64

8.91

5.54

11.79

10.17

9.73

10.97

14.08

9.18

9.64

8.90

13.19

18.86

14.14

2.52

12.08

9.83

3.69

9.16

26.01

10.06

13.20

18.11

12.38

11.67

13.58

15.57

12.66

10.93

3.52

4.62

believed that this method provides a reasonable relative estimate of the

fraction of lamellae covered by solids between the tests.

LB 2

2:89c G

100 p

To simplify the analysis, the shape of the solid particles on the lamellae is assumed to be spherical. The mean particle size of the solids on the

lamellae (P50) is assumed to be the same as that of the sized concentrate. It is assumed that the particles exhibit a monolayer distribution

on the lamellae. Hence, the area of a particle occupying the lamella is

equal to its projected area. The fraction of the lamella covered by solids

() can be calculated by Eq. (6). Density in this equation is required to

convert the mass of chalcopyrite loaded on bubbles into a project area

(c = 4.18 g/cm3).

30; 000LB

2c P50

The solids volume fraction in the plateau borders and vertices is

determined by the ratio of the volume of solid particles to the total

volume (including solids and water). It is equal to the ratio of the solids

volumetric ow rate (hydrophilic and hydrophobic particles) to the

total volumetric ow rate (hydrophilic and hydrophobic particles and

water) in the plateau borders and vertices.

The volumetric ow rate of hydrophobic particles in the plateau

borders and vertices is the overall volumetric ow rate of hydrophobic

particles in the nal concentrate minus the ow rate of the particles attached on bubble surfaces. The latter is directly determined by the bubble surface area ow rate overowing the concentrate lip and the

bubble loading. The bubble loading is obtained from Eq. (5): therefore,

the bubble surface area ow rate overowing the lip (f) is needed.

The volumetric ow rate of air overowing the lip (Va) can be determined by Eq. (7), where f is the gas hold-up in the froth, vf represents

the surface froth velocity over the lip, h is the froth height above the

lip, w is the lip width and k represents the velocity prole of the

overowing froth. When a linear velocity decrease with depth is assumed, the average velocity is half of the measured surface velocity

(k = 0.5) [28].

Va k f vf h w

the plateau borders (as silica is not hydrophobic). This can be calculated

based on the concentrate mass ow rate and the copper grade. The volumetric ow rate of silica in the concentrate (Vs) is determined by

Eq. (10) by considering the silica density (s = 2.65 g/cm3). The water

volumetric ow rate in the concentrate (Vw) is measured. Finally, the

solids concentration in the plateau borders (s) can be calculated using

Eq. (11).

Vs

c 1002:89G

100 s

10

Vs Vc

Vs Vc Vw

11

4. Results

4.1. Froth rheology

The measured froth rheology data were vane speed and torque as

shown in Fig. 5. This data was converted to shear stress and shear strain

to create the standard shear stress shear rate rheograms for each experiment using a method recently proposed for doing these calculations

when using a vane style rheometer surrounded by a tube [21].

The changing slope of the torque versus vane speed relationships

is an indication that the otation froths created in the test program

are exhibiting non-Newtonian shear-thinning behaviour. Thus the apparent viscosity of the froth increases as the shear rate applied decreases. As

the shear rate is expected to be related to froth velocity which is not constant throughout the froth phase, this poses a challenge when one wants

to compare the viscosity of different froths and how it changes with froth

properties. What viscosity should be compared?

The HerschelBulkley model (Eq. (12)) has been widely used to t

foam rheograms [2931]:

n

y _

1 6V a

2 D32

Vc

2:89c G100 LB f

100 c

the froth phase is mainly trapped in the plateau borders and vertices;

the contribution from the lamellae is negligible. Hence, the water ow

rate in the plateau borders and vertices is equal to that in the nal

concentrate. The silica ow rate in the concentrate is equal to that in

12

index, _ is the shear rate and n is the ow index (dimensionless). The

value of n indicates the deviation of the uid from Newtonian behaviour:

when n N 1, the uid is shear-thickening (i.e. dilatant); when n b 1, it is

shear-thinning (i.e. plastic or pseudo-plastic). When n = 1, the uid is

Newtonian, and the viscosity (i.e. ) is a constant [9].

The Sauter mean bubble diameter in the froth (D32 ) is obtained from

the surface froth image analysis. The bubble surface area ow rate

overowing the lip can be calculated using Eq. (8). The factor of 1/2 in

Eq. (8) corresponds to the sharing of each lamella by two neighbouring

bubbles. Hence the mass ow rate of chalcopyrite recovered in concentrate attached to lamellae (LB f) can be calculated. The volumetric ow

rate of chalcopyrite recovered by entrainment in the plateau borders

and vertices (Vc) can be calculated using Eq. (9).

f

59

60

Eq. (12) was used to t the data of shear rates and shear stresses collected from each test. These tted results show that the yield stress of

the froth in these experiments is very low, which may be a consequence

of the measurements being performed in a owing froth. Thus yield

stress in Eq. (12) can be made to equal zero without any signicant effect on the degree of t of the results. It was therefore removed from the

equation. In addition, it is apparent viscosity (), the ratio between the

shear stress and shear rate of a uid which is the most commonly

used rheological term to evaluate the rheology of non-Newtonian

ow. By dividing both sides of Eq. (9) by shear rate, an equation can

be developed relating the froth's apparent viscosity and the shear rate

being applied (Eq. (13)).

_

n1

13

that the consistency index () in Eq. (13) can be used to compare the

viscosity of uids when the uids have similar ow indices (n).

The curves of apparent viscosity versus shear rate for all tests are

plotted in Fig. 6 on a loglog scale. As shear rate in the froth is less

than 4 s1 in all the tests [20], Fig. 6 only shows the froth ow curves

for shear rate values less than 4 s1. Apparent viscosity changes significantly with shear rate, conrming that the otation froths were shearthinning uids. The slopes of all the relationships, however, are very

similar, indicating that the ow index (n) may be able to be considered

a constant.

If the ow indexes can be considered constant, the variation of froth

rheology in these tests can be represented by the differences in the consistency indices (). In order to validate this hypothesis, the standard

error of the ow index for each test determined using Eq. (13) was evaluated by using Solver statistics. The ow index with its error at 95%

condence interval is plotted in Fig. 7, which shows clearly that the

ow indices are very similar. Paired t-tests were performed to test the

signicance of the observed difference between each pair of n values.

Eq. (14) was employed to calculate the critical difference for a pair of

n to be statistically different with 95% condence [33].

n1 n2

t q

SEn1 2 SEn2 2

14

Fig. 7. Flow indices calculated for each test showing their 95% condence interval.

where ni is the ow index and SEni is the standard error of ni. For the

whole set of n, using the calculated average standard error (SEn =

0.08) for the n value, Eq. (14) is changed to Eq. (15) as shown below:

n1 n2

t q :

2SEn 2

15

(probability, degrees of freedom) (degrees of freedom = sample

size 2). Statistically, for 95% condence that the n values are signicantly different at the t-value of t95, 3 = 3.18, the critical difference for

ow index should be greater than 0.36. Fig. 7 shows that, in general,

the difference between each pair of ow indices is less than 0.36. Therefore, it may be concluded that there is no statistical difference between

the n values. As a result, the ow index can be treated as a constant, and

the froth rheology can be evaluated by using only the consistency index.

The effect of the froth properties estimated above on the froth rheology

in the 33 tests (as determined by the consistency index) is considered in

Section 5.1.

4.2. Calculated froth properties

A summary of the data measured in the otation experiments to

perform the calculations described in Eqs. (1) and (3) to (11) is given

in Table 2. A summary of the calculated froth properties for each experiment is shown in Table 3. As mentioned previously, there are seven repeat tests among the 33 otation experiments (i.e. Tests 1, 9, 10, 12, 18,

19, and 26). The variation of the calculated froth properties (CoV, the

ratio of the standard deviation to the mean) determined using these repeat tests is shown in Table 4. The standard deviation is generally less

than 10% of the mean value.

5. Discussion

5.1. Inuence of froth characteristics on froth rheology

Fig. 8 shows a negative relationship was observed between the consistency index obtained from the froth rheology model and the froth

bubble size (D32). There is scatter in this data, which is expected in a system where multiple froth characteristics are having a bearing on the result. According to the regression analysis there is a 99.98% condence

that the slope of this relationship is negative and non-zero. Therefore

it can be concluded statistically that bubble size is negatively correlated

with froth viscosity.

From a macroscopic viewpoint, with the air volume fraction being

above 0.95 in the froth in all the experiments (see Table 3), the otation

61

Table 3

Summary of froth properties.

Test

D32 (cm)

(Pasn)

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

0.9524

0.9646

0.9586

0.9736

0.9595

0.9662

0.9484

0.9646

0.9564

0.9531

0.9689

0.9564

0.9564

0.9698

0.9598

0.9789

0.9846

0.9527

0.9524

0.9863

0.9776

0.9844

0.9821

0.9499

0.9698

0.9517

0.9493

0.9495

0.9618

0.9643

0.9585

0.9682

0.956

0.91

0.89

0.81

0.86

1.00

1.23

0.94

1.09

0.92

0.97

1.15

0.97

0.80

0.86

0.82

0.93

0.76

0.84

0.84

0.78

0.71

1.01

1.07

0.94

0.90

0.87

0.88

0.82

0.93

1.00

0.86

1.15

0.87

0.014

0.0194

0.0095

0.0128

0.0119

0.0027

0.0059

0.0042

0.0111

0.0118

0.0049

0.0117

0.0084

0.0118

0.0147

0.0075

0.0128

0.0102

0.0107

0.0094

0.0154

0.0072

0.0081

0.0068

0.014

0.0108

0.0121

0.0177

0.0167

0.0074

0.0149

0.0043

0.0191

0.0835

0.0807

0.1075

0.0968

0.1058

0.0978

0.0913

0.0872

0.0851

0.0983

0.1004

0.0981

0.096

0.0871

0.1023

0.0872

0.0585

0.0911

0.0961

0.0556

0.0737

0.1028

0.0778

0.0962

0.1013

0.094

0.0847

0.0848

0.0878

0.0881

0.0774

0.0672

0.0756

1.47

2.04

1.80

1.92

1.02

2.02

1.44

1.07

1.39

1.40

1.35

1.24

1.73

1.10

1.77

1.22

1.26

1.46

1.48

1.59

1.84

0.64

0.57

1.02

1.66

1.27

0.98

1.65

1.38

1.43

1.30

0.88

1.58

phase aqueous foam studies, rheology is governed by the air volume

fraction and the bubble size [3437]. Air volume fraction has a positive

correlation with foam rheology, while bubble size inuences foam rheology negatively. The dominant factor determining foam rheology, transitions from air volume fraction to bubble size as foam dries. At a low air

volume fraction (Fig. 9a), isolated bubbles stay in a continuous liquid

phase. When a shearing force is applied on the foam, the resistance to

deformation is mainly determined by the bulk liquid rheology rather

than the foam texture [30]. As air volume fraction increases (Fig. 9b),

the foam regime changes from dispersed bubbles to compressed bubbles separated by the lamellae which form the plateau borders and vertices where the liquid is trapped. When an external shearing force is

applied on this type of foam, the bubbles are deformed and pass over

one another. The liquid trapped in the plateau borders is also sheared

during the ow. Therefore, the foam is expected to become more viscous and its rheological properties determined by the bulk liquid rheology and the bubble size [13]. When foam is very dry with a high air

volume fraction (Fig. 9c), the volume of liquid trapped in the plateau

borders and vertices is negligible, and bubble deformation and the

friction between adhered bubbles dene the foam rheology. In such

dry foam, the most important property affecting foam viscosity is the

bubble size [38].

From a microscopic viewpoint, the relationship in Fig. 8 can be explained in terms of the relative motion between neighbouring bubbles

Table 4

Statistics of the froth properties calculated using the repeat tests.

Froth property

D32 (cm)

(Pasn)

Mean

STDEV

CoV (%)

0.9536

0.0020

0.21

0.90

0.06

6.12

0.0115

0.0012

10.87

0.0923

0.0060

6.52

1.39

0.10

6.99

Fig. 8. Relationship between froth bubble size and the froth consistency index.

which involves the rearrangement of bubbles. This leads to the appearance of local velocity gradients in the uid conned in the lamellae, as

the uid is sheared as shown in Fig. 10a [31]. Bikerman [12] noted

that the lamella was signicantly more viscous than the bulk liquid

viscosity. Therefore, the shearing friction in the lamellae signicantly

dissipates energy and contributes to the froth viscosity. The length of lamella in a given volume of froth is determined by the bubble size. A bigger mean bubble size in the froth indicates a lower total lamella length

and vice versa. This explains the negative correlation between bubble

size and froth viscosity.

Froth ow also involves bubble surface area change. In static circumstances, a lamella is in a force equilibrium composed of the pressure difference between neighbouring bubbles and the surface tension. In

sheared foam, the analysis of bubble dynamics has shown that the perpetual formation and disappearance of foam lms between colliding

bubbles leads to variation of the bubble surface area around its mean

value [39]. The viscous dissipation of energy due to surface area change

is related to the surface dilatational modulus which denes bubble surface rigidity. The bubble surface dilatational modulus is positively correlated with surface tension [40,41]. At liquidair interfaces, surface

tension results from the greater attraction of water molecules to one another than to the molecules in the air. The net effect is an inward force at

the surface which results in the elastic tendency of the liquid to acquire

the least surface area possible. Bubble deformation involves surface

stretch as shown in Fig. 10b: at each local point on the surface, the

stretch dissipates energy to offset the resistance resulting from surface

tension. The small bubbles possess high surface tension and, consequently, a higher surface dilatational modulus, which results in a greater

dissipation of energy during deformation. This is another reason why

froth viscosity is expected to increase as the size of bubbles decrease.

5.1.2. Fraction of lamellae covered by solids

Flotation froth is a three-phase regime involving the presence of

solid particles. The solid particles are distributed on the bubble surfaces

and likely have an effect on the froth rheology. Fig. 11 conrms this hypothesis, showing that the greater the coverage of the lamellae with

particles, the greater the consistency index and therefore the viscosity

of the froth. Regression analysis indicates that there is a 99.64% condence that the slope of this line is positive and non-zero.

The positive correlation between the fraction of lamellae covered by

solids and froth rheology is likely to be due to two reasons:

I. The presence of particles on a lamella likely roughens the bubble

surface as shown in Fig. 12. In the sheared froth, the relative motion

between neighbouring bubbles needs extra energy to overcome the

resistance resulting from the friction between the particles attached

on the bubble surfaces. The higher the proportion of the lamellae

covered, the greater the friction and the more energy is dissipated

62

Fig. 9. Characteristics of a foam as the air fraction increases (a) low air fraction, (b) medium air fraction and (c) high air fraction.

Moreover, the particles on the lamellae will cluster together due to

hydrophobic attractive force [42] and Van der Waals' forces between

particles. When relative motion occurs between two neighbouring

bubbles, the particle clusters will be disrupted as the energy overcomes the bonds between particles. The phenomenon is also expected to dissipate shear energy.

surface tension and enhance froth stability [43,44]. A large number

of particles on a bubble surface stabilize a lm by forming a closely

packed monolayer. This prevents the interfaces from touching and

consequent coalescence between bubbles [45], resulting in small

bubble sizes. The probability for the bubbles to coalesce decreases

with an increase in the fraction of lamellae covered by solids, and,

consequently, the bubble size decreases. As discussed in the previous section, the froth becomes more viscous when bubble size is

decreased.

Within the plateau borders and vertices which form between the

packed bubbles of a otation froth, water and suspended solids exist.

In aqueous suspensions, solids concentration by volume can have a considerable effect on bulk rheology and potentially the solids within the

plateau borders may also be having an effect on the froth rheology.

However, there was no trend observed between the froth viscosity (in

terms of the consistency index) and the estimated solids concentration

in the plateau borders and vertices (Fig. 13). Regression analysis estimates that there is a 95% condence that it is not sufcient to conclude

a correlation existing between the consistency index and the solid

fraction.

Now this observation may be a consequence of either the bubbles

being so tightly packed that the rheology of the suspension between

the bubbles plays no role or the percent solids in the water phase is

too low to be having an effect.

In a dilute system in which the solids volume fraction is less than

0.05, the collisions between particles can be ignored [8]. In such cases,

the inter-particle interaction contributes negligibly to the suspension

rheology. It is known that the suspension viscosity increases with increasing solids volume fraction [4648]. The presence of particles

distorts the ow eld and can therefore be expected to increase the energy dissipation during ow, and hence the viscosity. For such cases,

Einstein [49] developed a relationship between suspension viscosity

and the volume fraction of solids as shown in Eq. (16).

r 1 2:5s

16

where r is the relative viscosity dened as a ratio of suspension viscosity to the viscosity of suspension medium, and s is the volume fraction

of solids.

When the solids volume fraction increases to a moderate level of

about 10%, the average distance between particles becomes approximately equal to their average diameter. The interaction between pairs

of particles starts to inuence the suspension rheology by dissipating

shearing energy. The effect of particle interactions on suspension rheology is complex and can be generally expressed as a Taylor expansion in

powers of the solids volume fraction as shown in Eq. (17) [8], where ci

are expression coefcients.

r 1 2:5s c2 s 2 c3 s 3

17

Above a certain solids concentration, the suspension viscosity increases sharply due to the signicant energy dissipation resulting

from friction between particles. The suspension viscosity tends to innity when the solids volume fraction is close to the maximum where the

suspension stops owing and behaves like a solid body. In general, the

suspension viscosity increases slightly with increasing solid volume

fraction below solids concentration of about 0.50; above this value,

the suspension viscosity increases much more rapidly with increases

in solids concentration [8,46,50].

In this study, the solids concentration in the plateau borders was low

and varied in a narrow range between 5.56% and 10.75% (Fig. 13).

Therefore, it is believed that the contribution of solids concentration to

the viscosity of the suspension in the plateau borders and consequently

to the whole froth phase was low. This will result in any effect of the

solids volume fraction in the plateau borders on froth viscosity being

masked by the solids surface coverage and bubble size effects. Therefore

no clear trend was observed in Fig. 13.

5.2. Modelling froth rheology

According to the above analysis, bubble size and the fraction of lamellae covered by solids are the two important froth properties affecting the

Fig. 10. A schematic of the processes determining the lamella dynamics in sheared froth.

Fig. 11. Effect of the fraction of lamellae covered by solids on the froth consistency index.

froth rheology. Based on these ndings, the literature was reviewed with

the objective of determining an appropriate model structure that could be

used to predict froth rheology based on the underpinning mechanisms.

Princen and Kiss [10] was found to have developed a model for foam

and highly concentrated emulsions that predicts apparent viscosity as a

function of the foam or emulsion properties.

y

32:0 f 0:73 0 Ca0:5

_

18

Newtonian continuous phase and Ca is the capillary number.

Ca

0 R32 _

19

where R32 is the Sauter mean bubble radius and is the interfacial

tension. By substituting Eq. (19) into (18), gives:

R32 _ 0:5

0

32:0 f 0:73

:

_

0

20

originally tted to the experimentally produced froth rheograms in

this study but includes parameters related to the properties of the

froth system its yield stress (when it is relevant), gas hold-up, the

bulk viscosity of the continuous phase which will exist in the plateau

borders, bubble size and interfacial tension.

Interestingly the ow index is assumed to equal 0.5, which is similar

to that observed in the otation froths produced in the experiments in

this study. A number of other researchers have also shown that the

ow index should equal 0.5 [10,30,5156]. The average value of the

ow indices of these 33 tests is 0.48 with the standard deviation being

0.07. A t-test was used to judge if the average value of the ow indices

is statistically different from 0.5. The standard t-value t95; 32 is 2.04

(32, degree of freedom). It is calculated that the t-value is 1.25 in this

study, which is less than the t-value of t95; 32. It is therefore statistically

valid to assume that the ow index is equal to 0.5. Hence, the froth

rheograms of these 33 tests were retted using a constant ow index

63

Fig. 13. Effect of solids concentration in the plateau borders and vertices on the

consistency index of the froth.

calculated at various shear rates using the retted Eq. (13) against

those measured experimentally. The degree of t is acceptable with

the average deviation being 4.15% and the regression coefcient (R2)

being 0.92.

In this study, the otation froth exhibited no signicant yield stress.

The bulk viscosity of the continuous phase is expected to be close to the

liquid media and will not change as the proportion of solids in the water

in the plateau borders was reasonably low in all tests (Fig. 13). The interfacial tension, which determines the interfacial modulus, is likely to

be associated with the proportion of the lamellae which is covered by

the hydrophobic particles. Hence, Eq. (20) can be converted to Eq. (21).

D32 _

f 0:73

2k0

!0:5

21

that should not change between the experiments.

Using the froth property data measured in this study (Table 3), the

apparent viscosity of the otation froth was tted to that predicted by

Eq. (21) by optimising the value of the constant, k0. k0 was found to

equal 1.22 PasNcm 1. It is therefore that Eq. (21) is converted to

Eq. (22). Fig. 15 shows a comparison between the experimental apparent viscosity and that predicted using the model at a number of the

lower shear rate measurements. The deviation of the prediction averages 6.23% and the correlation coefcient (R2) is 0.85. It therefore can

Fig. 14. Comparison between the experimental and calculated apparent viscosity when

n = 0.5.

64

to be affected by frother type and dosage as well as the hydrophobicity

of the particles attached to the bubble lamellae.

Froth rheology is expected to affect the overall otation process by

affecting froth residence time. This will be investigated in future work.

Fig. 15. Comparison between the experimental apparent viscosity and that predicted at

various shear rates for all the tests.

for by the model, which is considered good. Most of the parameters

driving the froth rheology are being taken into consideration.

f 0:73

D32 _

2:44

!0:5

22

6. Conclusions

The effects of froth properties on froth rheology were investigated

under various otation conditions. The froth properties were calculated

based on several assumptions.

The froths exhibited shear-thinning behaviour that can be described

well using a power law model dened by a consistency index and a

ow index. No statistical difference was found between the tted ow

indices in the different tests. Therefore, the consistency index, which is independent of shear rate, was used to evaluate the froth rheology.

The understanding of the rheology of two-phase uids (i.e. aqueous

foams or suspensions) was consulted (and expanded upon) with the

objective of understanding the rheology of three-phase otation froths.

The results showed that the measured froth rheology could be related to

the estimated froth properties in each experiment. Bubble size had a

negative correlation with froth viscosity, which is in line with that observed in two phase dry foams. In a sheared froth, relative motion between bubbles occurs, which results in bubble deformation. The

energy dissipation rate is determined by the friction between bubbles

and the bubble surface dilatational modulus, both of which are negatively correlated to the bubble size. The fraction of lamellae covered

by solids was found to positively inuence the froth viscosity. The presence of solid particles stabilizes froth and consequently generates small

bubble sizes. In addition, the presence of particles on the lamellae will

be expected to increase the surface rigidity and bubble interfacial tension and therefore more energy will be dissipated as the bubbles are

sheared, increasing viscosity proportionally with bubble loading. No

clear relationship between froth viscosity and the solids volume fraction

in the plateau borders and vertices was observed and this was attributed to the percent of solids being low and not varying signicantly.

A model structure was developed which enables prediction of the

apparent viscosity of a three phase otation froth based on froth bubble

size, the proportion of the lamellae covered by particles and the shear

rate applied. This model was able to adequately predict the froth rheology measured in the tests performed in this study. It is hoped that this

model structure can be tted to any otation system to enable prediction of froth rheology. More work, however, is required to validate

this hypothesis. There may also be the potential to further rene this

Nomenclature

A

cell cross-sectional area (cm2)

Ca

capillary number

Sauter mean bubble diameter in the pulp (cm)

D32

D32

Sauter mean bubble diameter in the froth (cm)

G

copper concentrate grade (%)

h

froth height above discharge lip (cm)

supercial gas velocity (cm/s)

Jg

k

constant that accounts for the velocity prole of the

overowing froth

regression constant (PasNcm1)

k0

bubble loading in the froth (g/cm2)

LB

n

ow index ()

P50

mean particle diameter of chalcopyrite measured in the concentrate (m)

R

otation recovery (%)

Sauter mean bubble radius in the froth (cm)

R32

pulp recovery (%)

Rc

froth recovery (%)

Rf

bubble surface area ux in the pulp (cm2/cm2s)

Sb

velocity of the upper surface of the overowing froth (cm/s)

vf

volumetric ow rate of air overowing the lip (cm3/s)

Va

volumetric ow rate of air entering the cell (cm3/s)

VA

volumetric ow rate of chalcopyrite that is entrained in the

Vc

plateau borders and vertices (cm3/s)

concentrate slurry ow rate (cm3/s)

Vcs

volumetric ow rate of silica overowing the discharge lip

Vs

(cm3/s)

volumetric ow rate of water overowing the discharge lip

Vw

(cm3/s)

w

lip width (cm)

_

shear rate (s1)

gas hold-up in the froth

f

solids volume fraction in the plateau borders

s

chalcopyrite density (g/cm3)

c

silica density (g/cm3)

s

yield stress (Pa)

y

bubble surface area ow rate overowing the lip (cm2/s)

f

bubble surface area ow rate in the pulp (cm2/s)

p

solid ow rate of concentrate by mass (g/s)

c

viscosity of the Newtonian continuous phase in a foam or

0

emulsion (Pas)

relative viscosity

r

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the AMIRA P9P (013908) sponsors

for the project funding. The authors also gratefully acknowledge the

valuable help provided by Mr. Martin Harris from the University of

Cape Town for his advice on froth rheology as well as Professor Tim

Napier-Munn of the JKMRC who assisted with the statistical analysis

of the results, Dr. Sam Morar for analysing the froth images produced

in this work and Professor J.P. Franzidis for proof reading this paper.

The assistance of Jon Worth and others in the pilot plant who helped

set up the test rig is also gratefully acknowledged.

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