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Drying Technology, 28: 834842, 2010

Copyright # 2010 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC


ISSN: 0737-3937 print=1532-2300 online
DOI: 10.1080/07373937.2010.490485

Dewatering and Drying in Mineral Processing Industry:


Potential for Innovation
Z. H. Wu,1,2 Y. J. Hu,1 D. J. Lee,3 A. S. Mujumdar,2 and Z. Y. Li1
1
College of Mechanical Engineering, Tianjin University of Science and Technology, Tianjin, China
2
Minerals, Metals and Materials Technology Centre (M3TC), Faculty of Engineering, National
University of Singapore, Singapore
3
Department of Chemical Engineering, National Taiwan University, Taipei City, Taiwan, R.O.C.

Their selection and operation are dependent mainly on


Wet beneciation of minerals necessarily requires removal of cost-effectiveness.
large amounts of watertypically contaminatedbefore further The objectives of this article are to provide a global
processing of the concentrated ores can be carried out. Often such overview of the types of dewatering equipment and dryers
concentrates are transported over large instances by ground or sea currently used in mineral processing industries and identify
transport. For economic reasons dewatering/drying are essential
unit operations. Often the capacity requirements of the mining possible new concepts that may be applicable in the
operations are very large, the product processed has low unit value, minerals industry.
and the material is abrasive. The selection of dryers is often
arbitrary. No clear guidelines can be found by noting current
practices in different countries. This article provides a global view DEWATERING OF MINERALS
of the types of dewatering equipment and dryers currently used in
the mineral processing industries, provides guidelines for selection In the minerals industry, dewatering is employed in
of drying systems, and recommends emerging innovative technolo- order to save on the energy required in thermal drying,
gies, such as superheated steam and pulse combustion drying for improve the handling properties of the concentrates, and
future applications in this industry. A few case studies are examined. reduce transportation costs if the concentrates are to be
shipped. Since the 1920s, various dewatering and
Keywords Dewatering; Innovations; Microwave drying; upgrading processes have been developed in a number of
Minerals processing; Superheated steam drying industries.[1,2]

INTRODUCTION
Current Dewatering Technologies
In the mineral processing industry, dewatering=drying
Conventional dewatering techniques utilize thickeners,
operations are generally carried out at the raw materials
dewatering screens, vacuum lters, centrifuges, and press-
or product-handling stage; for example, after beneciation
ure (hyperbaric) lters to reduce product moisture to a
or concentration the ore may require drying to some opti-
lower value. The driving forces exerting dewatering range
mum level to facilitate handling. The minerals are very
from 50 to >5000 g (for centrifuges) or 0.3 to 200 bar (for
often available as solids, aqueous solution, or slurries with
lters). In general, the greater the driving force exerted
different particle sizes. Different dewatering and drying
by any machine, the lower the throughput and the higher
technologies have been used to dehydrate minerals.
the cost. Table 1 lists the current dewatering technologies
Although dewatering and drying are highly energy-
for minerals. Choice of the dewatering technology for a
intensive operations that are also increasingly difcult at
specic material is dependent on many factors such as par-
lower moisture contents, no special attention is generally
ticle size, initial moisture content, etc. Taking coal as an
given to the technical and economical aspects of the
example, dewatering screens, centrifuges, and sieve bends
dewatering=drying process employed in the mineral proces-
provide a low-moisture product with 600-mm coal; how-
sing industry. It is therefore not surprising that most dryers
ever, their efciency decreases rapidly with decreasing par-
found in these industries are of the conventional type.
ticle size. Dewatering of 600-mm ne coal is often
accomplished using either vacuum or pressure ltration.
Correspondence: Z. H. Wu, College of Mechanical Engineer-
ing, Tianjin University of Science and Technology, Dagulan Road Disk and rotary drum vacuum lters are widely used in
1038, Hexi District, Tianjin 300222, China; E-mail: wddhua@ the United States and produce a lter cake with about
gmail.com 30% moisture. A pressure lter is more effective than

834
DEWATERING AND DRYING IN MINERAL PROCESSING INDUSTRY 835

TABLE 1
Current dewatering technologies for minerals
Dewatering Technology Characteristics of the dewatering methods
Gravity Sedimentation Employ principles of gravity settling and applied in mineral concentrates and
thickness tailings. High capacity, low maintenance, and operating cost, large physical size
Cyclones Widely used in the mining industry. Design and operational simplicity, high
capacity, low maintenance, and operating cost, small physical size. Applied as
classication or concentration
Centrifuges Vibrating basket The dilation and disturbance of the materials bed facilitates removal of water. Feed
centrifuges rate: 100 tons=h. Product moisture: 510 wt%. Centrifugal force: 6075 g
Scroll Dewatering spiral concentrates of 0.5 0.1 mm. Feed rate: up to 6070 tons=h.
centrifuges Product moisture: 1216 wt%. Feed solids: 4055 wt%. Centrifugal force: 110 g
Filtration Horizontal belt Handle a wider range of feed size and exible in its tolerance of feed changes and
surges. Simple in design and low cost in occulants and maintenance
Drum lters Handle coarser feeds. A relatively small footprint and a lower capital cost. Tolerant
to feed rate changes. Continuous operation
Disc lters Handle coarser feeds. Compact design and low capital cost. A higher maintenance
demand. Careful level control needed
Mechanical thermal pressing Mechanical expression (110 MPa) at elevated temperatures. Removal of 7% of
moisture. Energy-efcient operation. Changes in physical and chemical structure
of minerals

vacuum lters in lowering the cake moisture but its capital 2.91E-8 kg=(m2  s), which is less than that of the case
and operating costs are high. of the tangential inlet. Moreover, the pressure drop of
Hydrocyclones are widely used in mineral processing. circular involute inlet (45.7 kPa) is slightly higher. This
Because mineral slurries generally tend to be abrasive, the example shows that CFD modeling can act as a design
erosion-induced wear of the internal wall of hydrocyclones and analysis tool to improve the performance of conven-
is a critical issue for safety and economic considerations. tional mineral dewatering and drying devices. Mujumdar[4,5]
The injected solids particles such as sand and ore particles and Mujumdar and Wu[6] discussed in detail how math-
impinge the inside surfaces of the components of hydrocy- ematical modeling can enhance the innovations in conven-
clone, causing mechanical wear and eventual failure of the tional drying=dewatering techniques.
devices. Xu et al. used a computational uid dynamics
(CFD) model to predict the erosion rate inside hydrocy-
clones and developed some new hydrocyclone designs with New Developments in Dewatering Technology
highly signicantly lower erosion rate.[3] Figure 1 shows the Electrodewatering
proposed 75-mm standard hydrocyclones tted with four Mechanical dewatering methods can extract the free
different inlets and their erosion rate distributions. water contained in the liquid sludge relatively easily and
Table 2 lists the maximum and average computed erosion efciently by applying high pressure or vacuum. The result-
rates and pressure drops for each case. ing partially dewatered sludge will still contain a relatively
Although the standard hydrocyclone with tangential high percentage of water, but it consists mainly of adsorbed
inlet (Fig. 1a) has been widely used in mineral processes, water. Until electrodewatering came along, only thermal
the erosion rate for it is the largest compared with the treatment, which is costly in terms of energy and capital,
other three designs. Also, an obvious wear hot spot can would allow extracting the adsorbed water. The working
be found at the bottom of the cone section, where the ero- principle of electrodewatering is that the water in the
sion rate is very high. The maximum and integral erosion sludge contains cations (positive ions) that, under the effect
rates are 3.72E-4 and 1.87E-6 kg=(m2  s). But the pressure of a continuous electrical current, are attracted by the
drop is the lowest, 32.8 kPa. For the involute inlet, which negative polein this case, the cathode. Through viscous
can provide a smooth transition from pressure energy to action, the movement of the cations through the water in
rotational momentum, the distribution of erosion rate is the sludge carries water molecules toward the cathode,
relatively uniform and the value is low. For the circular where the water is nally drained out of the sludge. To
involute inlet shown in Fig. 1c, the maximum erosion compensate for the volume loss created by the extracted
rate is only 4.32E-7 kg=(m2  s) and the average value is water, the distance between the anode and the cathode is
836 WU ET AL.

tailings ponds at a coal washery using three horizontal elec-


trodes, 570 tons of material were dewatered to a spadeable
consistency (67% solids) in 2 weeks at 2633 V for an
energy consumption of about 9 kWh=tons of starting
material, or 20 kWh=tons on a dry solids basis. A further
9.5 days dewatering at 3340 V gave a dryer product (over
75% solids) for 36 kWh=tons (dry). Gopalakrishnan et al.
reported vacuum dewatering of titanium oxohydrate and
pyrite slurries that was enhanced electrokinetically through
application of a constant DC voltage cross the bed.[8] The
powder was applied either continuously or in an interrup-
ted mode. The interrupted mode, rst proposed by Prof.
Mujumdar at McGill University, removed more water than
continuous power, with lower consumption of energy.
Additional water could be removed in the interrupted
model by adding base at the node to neutralize the acidity
produced by the reaction at the anode when the power was
on. Much R&D has appeared recently that conrms
advantages of the interrupted operation.

Cross-Flow Microltration
Cross-ow microltration is a technique that may be
applied when processing very ne minerals that will not set-
tle or lter efciently by conventional means. In cross-ow
ltration, the suspension to be ltered is passed tangen-
tially over the surface of the lter. The formation of a lter
cake is restricted by the shear at the membrane surface and
the process is strongly inuenced by the rheology of the
suspension undergoing treatment. Cross-ow microlters
are of modular design that enables them to be employed
FIG. 1. Erosion rate distributions on inner wall of hydrocyclones tted for intermittent or transient application, to be moved early
with different inlets: (a) standard tangential inlet, (b) modied tangential
inlet, (c) circular involute inlet, and (d) elliptical involute inlet.
between locations. The most appropriate cross-ow lters
for mineral suspensions are perforated or porous tubes of
413 mm in diameter operating in parallel, which can pro-
adjusted by applying a mechanical force to the electrodes vide an extremely large ltering area enclosed in a small
and controlled pressure to the sludge to be dewatered. total volume. Alternative cross-ow lter designs include
The resulting sludge is very dry; by changing the operating hollow ber and spiral-wound modules.
parameters, a dryness of 25 to 50% or greater can be GE Osmonics, Inc. led a patent about cross-ow
achieved. ltration cartridges.[9] The cartridges are made using a
Lockhart carried out large-scale laboratory tests on pure semipermeable membrane of sheet formation that was cast
clays and various ne suspensions from mineral proces- upon an integral polymeric brous support material, which
sing.[7] In one eld trial of electroosmotic dewatering in exhibits excellent permeate ow in the plane. After gelling

TABLE 2
Erosion rate for four inlet ducting designs
Pressure Maximum erosion Face average
Inlet drop (kPa) rate (kg=m2  s) erosion rate (kg=m2  s)
Standard tangential inlet 32.8 3.72  104 1.86  106
Modied tangential inlet 81.7 7.62  107 4.72  108
Circular involute inlet 45.7 4.32  107 2.91  108
Elliptical involute inlet 74.1 4.58  107 3.52  108
DEWATERING AND DRYING IN MINERAL PROCESSING INDUSTRY 837

to form a polymeric semipermeable membrane, the product moisture form coarse coal centrifuges. The technique
is spirally wound about a porous tube in association with involves injecting a turbulent stream of air through the
feed-passageway-providing sheet material, but in the particle bed as it travels through the centrifuges. Reductions
absence of any separate permeate carrier, to form an effec- in product moisture of up to 1 wt% have been achieved.
tive cross-ow ltration cartridge in the absence of any Demonstrations of full-scale centrifuges are being planned.
separate permeate carrier. Holdich et al. discussed the vari-
ous scale-up and operating models of cross-ow ltration
systems for both suspensions thickening and washing free DRYING OF MINERALS
from a solute.[10] A shear drag model was developed for Conventional Drying Techniques for Minerals
the mineral cross-ow ltration systems. It was found that Conventional dryers used in the mineral processing
the ux rate is very important to process scale use. industry are classied as hearth, shaft, and grate type.
Other types of dryers used less commonly in current prac-
Enhanced Dewatering with Surfactants and Flocculants tice are the spray, uid bed, pneumatic or ash conveyor,
In recent years, the need for improved oc conditioning drum, stationary- and rotating-tray type, infrared type,
is being increasingly recognized. Operators are assessing and others. The commonly used drying mediums are hot
options for improved and controlled mixing of occulants air, combustion gas, and steams. Table 3 lists the character-
into lter feeds, and also the use of mixed occulant formu- istics of the dryers and their applications in the mineral
lations (anionic and cationic) to produce smaller tighter processing industry. Mujumdar has provided a comprehen-
ocs, which in turn can produce enhanced cake per- sive discussion on classication and selection of dryers.[13]
meability without large increases in porosity. Two distinct Drying of iron ore concentrate in a large-scale uidized
types of proprietary chemical additives are generally avail- bed was reported by Davis and Glazier.[14] Iron ore concen-
able for industrial use: occulant lter aids and surfactant trate containing 34.5% moisture needs to be dried to a
dewatering aids. 1.5% moisture level to avoid formation of lumps due to
Sherex Chemical Company Inc. reported that improved freezing of the moisture during winter. This job was
dewatering results are achieved by adding to the mineral accomplished in a uidized bed dryer with a diameter of
ore slurry an effective amount of a dewatering aid compris- 3.66 m and a capability of 515 tons=h. The combustion
ing an alkoxylated C6-C11 alkanol or alkanoic acid gas from fuel oil was used as drying medium and its super-
wherein alkoxylation is conducted with propylene oxide cial gas velocity was 2 m=s. The residence time of the solid
or butylene oxide.[11] Mwaba studied the role of surfactants inside the bed ranged from 1.5 to 2 min and the moisture at
in the dewatering of graphite and hematite suspensions.[12] the outlet was 0.1%. The required moisture content of 1.5%
When the surfactant sodium di-(2-eththylhexyl) sulphosuc- of the concentrate was obtained by blending the nearly
cinate, which adsorbs on both graphite and hematite bone-dry concentrate with the wet concentrate. This
surfaces, leads to small but signicant reductions in the large-scale uidized bed dryer was reported to perform well
nal moisture contents of the lter cakes and also increases and to be useful for economically exploring the technology
the average ltration rates. These enhancements on the in similar areas. Fluidized bed dryers were reported to
ltration rates are attributed to the changes in the wetting dehydrate alumina and remove 80% of the combined water
characteristics of the mineral surfaces, which are caused by of hydragillite (Al2O3  3H2O).[15] The alumina thus
the surfactant adsorption. obtained could readily react with ammonium uoride to
produce ammonium cryolite, which can subsequently be
Other Improvements used to produce alumina by the electrolytic method. Also,
A recent development in the minerals industry is the use readers can nd applications of uidized bed dryers in
of ceramic lter media in vacuum disc lters. The pores of dehydration of many nuclear materials, sands, etc.
these lters are so ne that air breakthrough is prevented, When sand is quarried it typically has a moisture con-
thus permitting retention of higher vacuum levels and pro- tent of about 6%. Sand is used in large quantities by the
duction of drier cakes. Also, some plants have been testing construction industry, in foundries, by the glass industry,
hyperbaric pressure lters as a means of reducing product and in water ltration and sewage treatment works. Sand
moisture. The dewatering driving force is applied as an over- is fed into a dryer where it is dried according to the custo-
pressure to the lter and is usually approximately 3 bars. mers requirement. It is then cooled, screened, and con-
Compared with vacuum ltration, substantial reductions veyed via a totally enclosed system to silo storage. Fluid
in product moisture (610 wt%) and increases in throughput beds are generally used where throughput is 50100 tonnes
(up to 2.5 times higher) have been achieved. A research of sand per hour. Figure 2 shows a uidized bed sand dryer
project funded by the Centre for Mining Technology and schematically. The uid bed utilizes air in generating a uid
Equipment reported development of a pilot-scale (approxi- bed and the combustion exhaust gas acts as the energy
mate 3 tons=h coal) of a novel technique to reduce product source. The uid bed ensures a good transfer of heat from
838 WU ET AL.

TABLE 3
Conventional drying technologies for minerals
Dryers Characteristics of the drying methods
Hearth dryer Conduction drying. Inherently slow and highly labor intensive. Use for drying of otation
concentrate of zinc and lead, copper sludge, washed kaolin, etc. 1030% thermal efciency.
Grate dryer Convective drying. Drying of Green balls in iron, copper, and chromium manufacture. 3060%
thermal efciency. 2575 kg water evaporation=h=m2 of grate area
Shaft dryer Convective drying. Applied in zinc and iron industries. Typical size 2  2  20 m. 3560% thermal
efciency. Low capital costs and maintenance cost
Rotary dryer Direct or indirect heat. Operating in near atmospheric pressure or vacuum. Drying of yellow cake
in the uranium leaching process. Retention time of 5 to 25 min. Dryer load of 315%
Spray dryer Particularly in drying a wide assortment of mineral otation concentrates. Solid content of
5570 wt%. High thermal efciency and low product moisture content (<5%). Careful choice of
atomizer
Vacuum dryer Environmentally safe operation with no dust problems. High hot water recovery. Batch drying
process
Fluidized bed dryer Batch or continuous drying in an upward ow of hot gas. Efcient method of drying for
uidizable, nonsticky solids, or even slurries such as titanium dioxide, zirconium silicate, zircon,
coal, etc. Residence time of 525 min
Flash dryer Flash or pneumatic dryers transport wet, pulverized solids in a hot air stream. Suitable for ne
feed. Fast drying and often used to remove surface moisture
Conveyor=screw Wet feed is carried on a belt and vibrating conveyor by passing a heating chamber. Hollow shafts
conveyor dryer or ights found in screw dryer. Well suited as a supplemental dryer for an existing dryer
Drum dryer Used for slurries or pastes. Wet material coat on the outer surface of a rotating drum steam heated.
Vacuum may be applied
Rotating shelf or Operation principle similar to drum dryer. Use to dry materials such as bauxite, borax, calcium
Disk dryer carbonate, powdered coal, kaolin, mica, soda ash, thorium dioxide, zinc powder, and iron ore
concentrate

the air to the sand, so exhaust temperatures are typically temperature, etc. Below around 30 tonnes per hour rotary
quite low at around 48 C. It is designed with a large expan- dryers tend to be cheaper than uid beds. They are used for
sion chamber and the dust presented to the arrestment throughputs of 3050 tonnes of sand per hour.
plant is a ne fraction. In order to keep the temperature
of the emissions above the dew point of around 5060 C
it is often necessary to trace heat in the arrestment plant. Emerging Drying Methods
Rotary dryers are also used as sand dryers. They tend to Superheated Steam Drying
be older units and use about 40% more energy than uid Superheated steam drying is a drying technology that
beds, although there are wide variations due to differences uses superheated steam as the drying medium. Compared
in type of fuel, moisture content of feed, discharge with the hot air drying, the steam atmosphere is an inert,
no oxidation and explosive drying medium for the pro-
ducts, which has great application potential in the drying
of coal and metal sulphide concentrates.
Superheated steam is an attractive alternative to the con-
ventional hot air used in coal drying because it eliminates
re hazard.[1619] The use of superheated steam for drying
coal has a number of advantages, including (1) improved
safety through the reduced risk of explosion or re (due
to lack of oxygen). (2) Signicant reduction in dust
emission. (3) Increased drying rates and thermal efciency.
(4) Improved coal grindability. Rao and Wolff found that
drying coal with superheated steam at the temperature
FIG. 2. Schematic of a uidized bed sand dryer. of 250 C has a signicant impact on coal grindability.[20]
DEWATERING AND DRYING IN MINERAL PROCESSING INDUSTRY 839

(5) Reduction in sulphur content. The degree of desulphur- has promising application potential in drying. Pulse
ization reported was between 40 and 50% at steam tempera- combustion drying technology utilizes one or multiple
tures between 300 and 500 C. In general, the pure pulse combustors to produce high-temperature and
superheated steam environment primarily reduced the inor- high-velocity pulsating jets, which can be used for drying
ganic sulphur content (including pyretic sulphur) of the wet materials. Industrial applications of pulse combustion
coal. However, steam processing environments that had a to drying can be found mainly in spray drying and to a
small amount of air did provide signicant reductions in lesser extent in uid bed and ash drying. Short drying
the organic sulphur content as well. (6) Reduction in sodium time, high energy efciency, improved product quality,
content. Baria and Hasan measured the sodium content of and environmentally friendly operation are noted as the
lignite and subbituminous coals before and after drying key advantages of this drying technology. Ellman et al. rst
the coal in superheated steam.[21] They found that at steam carried out experimental studies of lignite drying using a
temperatures between 270 and 320 C, the sodium content of 205 kW pulse combustor.[23] The moisture content of lignite
the coals was reduced by 5090%, depending on the type of was reduced from the initial 35% (wet basis) to below 10%
coal and the steam temperature. with a product output of 20 tons=h. In 1969, Ellman
Figure 3 shows the uidized bed drying process of brown developed a more powerful lignite dryer where the pulse
coal using superheated steam developed by Wirbelshicht- combustor had a heat load of 713 kW and a combination
Trocknungmit interner Abwarmenutzung (WTA).[22] The of propane, 3% residue, and lignite was used as fuel. This
WTA dryer used a uidized bed of superheated steam along pulse combustion dyer can produce 3.2 tons of brown
with vapor compressors for recovering the latent heat from coal=hour.
the processes. The coal is dried from 5560% moisture Figure 4 presents a pulse combustion spray-drying
content down to 12% moisture. The ow rate of coal is installation developed by Hosokawa Bepex Corporation
44 tons=h of wet coal. In the dryer, the steam is 110 C and (Minneapolis, MN), which consists of a pulse combustor,
50 mbar. Some of the steam from the dryer is compressed a drying chamber of various congurations, and a
to 4 bar and 150 C for heating the uidized bed in the dryer cyclone.[24,25] In a pulse combustion spray dryer, the hot
via submerged tubular heat exchanger bundles in which this high shear and the intense pressure wave fronts instantly
steam is condensed. Compared to the rotary steam-tube atomize the liquid or slurries into ne droplets without
dryers, the WTA superheated steam dryer is claimed to the need for an atomizer. There is no need for a blower
or a compressor to supply the drying gas as in the case
 consume 80% less energy;
of a conventional spray dryer. Hosokawa Bepex has tested
 have 80% less dust emissions;
over 120 different materials and their results were reported
 have a smaller capital cost compared to rotary
to be encouraging with most products being of equal or
steam-tube dryers.
better quality than those produced by conventional spray
dryers. The tested minerals include amorphous silica, briny
Pulse Combustion Drying
Pulse combustion (PC) is an intermittent (periodic)
combustion process of gaseous, liquid, or solid fuels that

FIG. 4. A pulse combustion spray drying installation and its PC burner


FIG. 3. Schematic of WTA uid-bed superheated steam coal dryer. assembly.
840 WU ET AL.

wastewaters, ceramic aluminum oxide, iron sulfate, kaolin Microwave Drying


clay, manganese methionine, metallic oxides, nickel Microwave drying has district advantages such as high
carbonate, titanium dioxide, zeolite, oxylates, copper process speed, uniform heating, high energy efciency,
lysine, mineral supplements, etc. better and rapid process control, less space requirement,
Zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles have attracted much selective heating, etc. Due to above merits, microwave
interest because they possess various remarkable physical energy has potential in minerals drying; for example, dry-
and chemical properties that are distinct from those of con- ing of ceramics, ne coal, pretreatment of refectory gold
ventional bulk materials. A continuous spray pyrolysis ore and concentrate, etc.
(SP) method is generally used to produce high-purity James Graham reported a new, powerful industrial
ZnO nanoparticles, which includes salt-assisted-SP (SASP), microwave system capable of continuous, large-scale indus-
low pressure-SP (LPSP), and ame-SP (FSP). A research trial processing.[29] The system has been used to dry ne coal
group in Hiroshima University (Japan) proposes a new to a controlled aggregate moisture content, without starting
SP method for the preparation of nanoparticles, which is combustion or degrading the coking qualities of the coal.
called pulse combustion-SP (PC-SP).[26] The PC-SP experi- Figure 6 shows the schematics of the microwave drying
mental setup is shown schematically in Fig. 5. The setup system called the Drycol process (Drycol Australia Pty
mainly consisted of a pulse combustor, a furnace, an elec- Ltd., Brisbane, Queensland, Australia). The process
trostatic precipitator, a ltration system, and an atomizer achieves a drying efciency of 6294% depending on the
(two-uid nozzle). The ratio of the ow rates (L=min) coal types, with a signicant reduction of coal contaminants
of the fuel (propane) to the oxidizer in the PC system such as sulfur, potassium, phosphorus, etc. From this point
(Pultech, Kobe, Japan) was xed at 1:26.6. This ratio pro- of view, microwave drying improves the quality of ne coal.
duced a pulse engine energy of 1000 kcal=h and 115 dB at a
frequency of 1000 Hz. A high production rate (15 g=h) was Combined Grinding and Drying
achieved in this setup. The prepared ZnO nanoparticles Sometimes drying may be achieved simultaneous with
were spherical and highly crystalline with an average size another operation. For example, heat produced during
of 15.6 nm. In addition, high UV light absorption and vis- grinding can be used effectively to reduce the moisture con-
ible light transparency properties were successfully tent signicantly while reducing the particle size. In some
obtained for a dispersion of ZnO nanoparticles in glycerol. other applications, for example, drying of sludge from a
Pulse combustion drying is a novel technology but it de-inking plant, initial moisture content of 54% can be
appears to face many problems that need to be sorted reduced to as low as 12% (wet basis) during grinding. This
out before any progress can be made. Wu and Mujumdar also destroys any pathogens that may be present. One of the
(2006) have provided a comprehensive review of the prac- commercial grinder dryers of interest to coal drying is the
tical aspects of pulse combustion from an industrial KDS Micronex grinder=dryer (First American Scientic
perspective.[27,28] Corporation, Delta, British Columbia, Canada).[13] A typi-
cal KDS grinder chamber has a diameter of 1.3 m and
encloses a set of eight spinning chains and a stationary torus
above it. The chains are spun horizontally at high rotational
speeds; the chain tip speed can reach about 200 m=s, causing
high frictional heating due to aerodynamic drag. The
bottom surface of the torus, which is at, provides a surface
for the particles to collide on and shatter. This results in
grinding action accompanied by drying. The mechanism
of drying is partly thermal and partly mechanical dewater-
ing. This saves on energy for drying. Air temperatures in the
chamber can reach between 70 and 90 C.

FIG. 5. Schematic of the pulse combustion-SP system setup for prepar-


ing ZnO nanoparticles. FIG. 6. The Drycol process for ne coal.
DEWATERING AND DRYING IN MINERAL PROCESSING INDUSTRY 841

Drying with Heat Pump or Waste Heat  SO2 emissions fell 1.9%;
For a high thermal efciency dryer, it is generally not  Mercury emissions decreased 0.5%.
economically justiable to install heat-recovery equipment
Fath presented a typical application of a diesel engine
to recover the low-level heat in the exhaust gas. If the
waste heat recovery technique developed for drying of clay
exhaust gas is at high temperature for whatever reason,
mineralsbentonite.[31] The clay mineral muds are com-
one must carefully evaluate the possibility of installing monly used in drilling oil and gas wells, which need to be
heat-recovery systems for such a dryer. The heat pump dried to 1012% moisture contents to maintain good
technology can efciently recover the waste heat and there
physicochemical properties. A 285-kW, Caterpillar diesel
has been a growing interest in recent years to apply the heat
engine-generator set for in-house electricity generation
pump drying technology to foods and biomaterials. It is
was used as the source of waste heat for bentonite drying.
also likely that heat pump technology may nd applica-
The drying air temperature generated from this diesel
tions in the drying of minerals.
engine set varied from 30 to 50 C depending on the ambi-
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Great River
ent air temperature, which suits the drying requirements of
Energy are testing a new coal drying technology that could bentonite. It was estimated that the drying production rate
dramatically reduce the emissions of lignite-burning power was 4 tons=day maximum.
plants. The project is located in Coal Creek Station in
Underwood, North Dakota, and involves a lignite fuel
CONCLUDING REMARKS
enhancement system (LEFS), which uses waste heat to
An attempt is made to provide a general overview of
dry fuel before it is fed into the boiler.[30] Typically, about
competing drying=dewatering processes for minerals. Some
45% of the fuel heat put into a conventional pulverized
new dewatering=drying technologies are identied, such as
coal-red power plant is lost in the condenser; another
microltration, cross-ow ltration, superheated steam
20% exits the stack. The LFES (shown in Fig. 7) exploits
drying, pulse combustion drying, etc. Specically, super-
how this heat can be used to predry wet coal. During the
heated steam drying of minerals such as pulverized coal
rst phase of the project, GRE built the prototype dryer
is being adopted as the technology of choice due to its
and used it for one year to process about 300,000 tons of
inherent high thermal efciency and safe operation because
lignite. Usually, the dryer was operated at a throughput
there is no danger of re and explosion in this process.
of 75 tons=h, but dryer capacity tests were conducted over
Pulse combustion is a novel technology that has many
a range of 75 to 105 tons=h.
distinct advantages. As the global demand for minerals
The dried lignite was directed to one of Coal Creek
increases, it is expected that newer drying and dewatering
Stations eight pulverizers, each of which provides about
technologies will emerge in the near future. Unfortunately,
14% of the plants total fuel. Although the dryer reduced
R&D in mineral processing has been at low levels for over
the moisture content of the overall fuel feed by just 1.1%,
ve decades. Perhaps all operations in this industry deserve
its use provided many signicant operating benets:
a second look. It should be possible to benet from
 NOx emissions decreased 7.5%; advances made in other industries. Use of solar energy,
 CO2 emissions fell 0.5%; ambient air, and windmills is possible at vast mine sites.
 Boiler efciency increased 0.5%; Techno-economics of such applications in mineral proces-
 Pulverizer power consumption decreased 3.3%; sing should be evaluated carefully.

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