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Gesellschaft Deutscher Metallhiitten- und Bergleute · Clausthai-Zellerfeld

Internationaler KongreB für Erzaufbereitung . Goslar, 8. bis 11. Mai 1955

Herstellung unrl Eigenschaftell vo11 Ferrosilizium fiir rlie Sdzwerfliissigkeitsnufbereitwzg

von Dr. F. Rorlis, K11npsnck bei Köln . 1- 4

Gesellschaft Deutscher Metallhütten- und Bergleute . Clausthai-Zellerfeld

International Mineral Dressing Congress · Goslar, May 8th-11th, 1955

Prorluction n11rl properlies of ferrosilicon for henvy merlin sepnrntio11 by Dr. F. Rorlis,
Knnpsnck near Cologne 5- 8

Societe des Mineurs & Metallurgistes Allemancis . Clausthai-Zellerfeld

Congres International de Ia Preparation des Minerais · A Goslar, 8. -11. Mai 1955

Fnbz ication et proprietes rlu Ferro-Silicium pour In prt?pnrntion des minernis pnr Jevigntion
en milieux denses pnr Je docteur F. Rodis, K11npsnck pnr Cologne . 9-12

Asociacion de Metalurgicos y Mineros Alemanes · Clausthai-Zellerfeld

Congreso Internadonai de Preparacion Mecanica de Minerales . Goslar, 8 a 11 de Mayo de 1955

Fnbricnci611 y propierindes rlel ferrosilicio pnrn In prepnrnci6n mectinicn rle minernles en

merlios rlensos por el Dr. F. Rodis, rle Knnpsnckt Colonin . 13-17

Entnommen der Ausgabe VIII (1955) der Zcit•chrift für Erzbergbau und Metallhüllenwc•cn

Publishcd in the supplement to \'Oiume VIII ( t9S5) of Zeitschrift für Erzbergbau und Met,lllhüllenwesen

App,uu dans l'annexe du \'Olume VIII (1955) de Zeitschrift für Erzbergbau und Metallhüllenwesen

Publicado en el apendice deltomo VIII (1955) de Zeitschrift für Erzbergbau und Metallhüllenwesen
Production and properties
of ferro ilicon for heavy 1nedia eparation
by Dr. F. Rodis, Knapsack near Cologne

Ferrosi/ico11 powder (containing approx. 15°/o Si) for constitution of heavy media is used today in many separation plants
treating iron and other ores. The production of the powder by grindi11g is expensive. A new process atomizes the still mol=
ten ferrosilicon by air or steam.
In a heavy medium this atomized ferrosilicon powder has several remarkable properties: Tlze round form and smooth and
shining surface of the individual grain offers greater resista10ce to corrosion, especially as rto contamination is produced
between iron and silicon during the process. Tlze viscosity of the he011y media pulp for the same weigltt of pulp is less titan
for ground ferrosilicon, i.e. for tl1e same viscosity a greater pulp density cart be attained. Tltis migltt be of importance in
future. Adhesion=loss is lower for atomi::ed ferrosilicon. Tlze s trength of the atomi::ed powder is equal to that of tl1e
ground powder.

GENERAL STATEMENTS ABOUT FERROSILICON AS A must be carried out with extreme care because at hig her
HEAVY MEDIUM temperahtres decomposition occurs in consequence of in=
The use of ferrosilicon powder has risen with the increasing creased corrosion. These grinding plants are r ather expensive,
employment of heavy media separation for ores, particularly and are often not running to their full capacity; yet it is use=
in the separation of iron ores. In the separation of lead and less to build a smaller plant for the mills must have a cer=
zinc ores, ferrosilicon is a foreign body and the use of galena lain size for an economica l treatment of this material. Ferro=
as a heavy medium would seem indicated; yet ferrosilicon silicon with a higher Si=content (for example, -15 or 75 Ofo Si)
has largely replaced galena for this work. The reason fo r it can be ground more easily because it is more brittle than the
is th a t ferrosilicon possesses good magnetic properties which 15 Ofo which, as has been shown in tests, possesses a certain
can be used to recover it from fouled medium. Galena can toughness making comminution difficult. Tests have shown
only be recovered by flotation. In contradistinction to other that the grinding operation causes great wear of the mills
heavy media like magnetite, ferrosilicon h as the advantage and is costly.
of a high specific gravity and of greater hardness. In Arne=
rica about 15-20 million tons of iro n or es were separated b) By Atomizing
with ferrosi licon in 1952. A new method of powder production has therefore been de=
A powder with about 15 °/o Si=content is used because in it veloped whereby the liquid melt is atomized by air or steam.
the magnetic properties are well distinguished and the spe=
cific gravity is high. With a Si=content of 18-20 °/o the spec. 30 50 300 500
I 2 3 '5 10 20 '0 100 200 ,00 1000
gr. is lower and the limit of mag netizability is near. With a 0,1 99,9
0,5 99.5
content of only 12-14 °/o Si resistance to corrosion is lessened. I 99
The 15 °/o ferrosilicon is melted in a special electrical furnace. 5 ~ 95
The desired Si=content is obtained by melting down a suit=
able mixture of scrap, gravel and carbon. It is, of course,
, /
/ /
632- 70
possible to start with the available low percentage ferro= '0 /, 60
50 50
silicon and to add g ravel and carbon, or to blend high per= 60 '0
centage ferrosilicon, such as is obtained from the carbide 70
v lJ - 30
furnace operation, with scrap only. If a considerable amoun t ct.' 80 /1/ 20 ci
of slag occurs during the process, the standard electrode= 15
furnace is more suitable than an induction furnace, because 90 I- 10 "~
;;"' 8 "'
the lining of the latter is easily corroded by slag. The m elt C!.
v /' 5
in the furnace reaches a temperature of approx. 1300° C
(2350° F) . 97 r--
98 2


a) By Grinding
9.9,5 0,5
In the standard process liquid ferrosilicon is removed from I 2 3 '5 10 20 '0 100 200 ' OG 1000
30 50 300 500
the furn ace, cooled, crushed, and gro und to the desired fine•
ness. Fine and coarse powders are av:lilable. The finer one Size d, micron (mm)
is preferred in the first stages of a sink and float plant. Figure 1: Size fractions of atomized ferrosilicon
After some running time the coarser quality is added to A B
Size Fraction
make up the loss and to correct wear. T he actual separating Fine Fraction Coarse Fraction
vessel is of great importance; it should be so formed that
the heavy sink product at its bottom cannot grind the ferro= 3 -0 3,7 3,1
silicon as in a ball mill. 10-0 16,5 6,7
In many cases wet grindi ng is preferred as the less expen= 20 -0 27,3 15,0
sive process. This, however, is done locally because the 60 -0 76,5 52,6
ground sludges cannot be transported easily. Any drying 100 -0 91,7 75,9

The resulting particles are quenched in water, and the pow• dry between wettings, microscopical examination shows that
der which after draining still contains approx. I 0 °/o water the powder begins to rust. A quick test procedure for ferro•
is dried and screened. In contradistinction to the ground silicon powder has been worked out; the powder, together
powder, the atomized powder shows neither decomposition with plenty of water, is put into a beaker, and treated in
nor rusting. This process is similar to the production of me• a waterbath at 70° C.
tal powders used in powder metallurgy. Provision must be According to the susceptibility to corrosion the beginning of
made for substantial supplies of steam at controlled pres• gas emission can be observed at different time intervals. This
sure. Approx. 2 tons of steam are used per ton of ferro• °
quick test procedure has also shown that even 45 o and 75 o °
silicon. ferrosilicon powder reacts with water, if it is fine enough for
Atomization also produces finer or coarser grains as desired. the requirements of sink and float separation. Accurate tests
The determinants are the steam pressure, temperature and have shown that the development of hydrogen generally
composition of the ferrosilicon melt. It has been found to be s tarts at the corners and edges where according to the latest
of special adva ntage if, besides copper, other alloys are pre•
theories in surface chemistry rust=forming influences are pre•
sent in the melt, in the concentration needed to produce a
sent which are very active. Therefore corrosion cannot be
good powder by atomization. As with the ground ferrosilicon
avoided by chemical additions, not even copper, because it
so with the atomized ferrosilicon the size distribution in the
depends on the surface conditions. Another point is that
Rosin=Rammler diagram is represented by a straight line
during the grinding process iron particles are worn off the
(figure 1), which was not quite expected.
grinding bodies and the mill lining. Such iron particles which
PROPERTIES OF ATOMIZED FERROSIUCON are either mixed with or rolled onto ferrosilicon particles
form with the latter so=called "local elements" or electro•
The two different processes of operation (grinding and ato• couples which strongly promote the formation of rust. Such
mizing) result in different properties in these products, of local elements are also formed within the individual powder
which only those interest us which influence the heavy media particles if several chemical compounds between the iron and
pulp. Decisive for the different behaviour is not so much the silicon segregate as the tapped melt cools down slowly. All
chemical composition which is the same in both cases, but
these compounds have different potentials, and therefore give
the physical condition of the surface of each individual pow=
rise to the formation of smallest elements. Measurements of
der particle (figure 2). The ground powder shows sharp cor=
these potentials showed that for example there is a potential
difference of 300 Millivolt between 15 o ferrosilicon and iron
in a 3 °/o sodium chloride solution. In practical operation the
corrosion results in agglomeration of the settled powder
along with a more or less heavy formation of gas. Hydrogen
is formed as can be seen from the following equations:
Si + 2 H20 = Si02 t- 2 H2
2Fe + H20 + 02 = Fe-!03 + H2
Si02 and Fe203 occur as hydrates and cause cementing of
the deposited particles. Though in the decomposition of iron
the hydrate of the three valency iron oxide (Fe20a • xH20)
is not formed primarily, the primarily formed hydrate of the
oO two valency iron FeO • xH~O changes in the presence of
• • ••
oxygen quickly to the three valency form. Oxygen is always
present as the pulp is well aerated by the strong movement.
Many heavy media plants use ai r for the lifting of the liquid.
Rgure 2: Physical properties of ferrosilicon; The atomized ferrosilicon behaves differently. Here, the indi=
left : atomized, right: ground. Magn. 90 X vidual particle does not offer preferential points of attack to
ners and edges and has a rough surface, whereas in the ato• rusting as its shape is spherical, and its surface hard. Due
mized material the individual grain has a more or less round= to the quenching, segregation of various chemical com•
ed form as well as a smooth, shining surface which is spe= pounds does not occur and contamination by worn=off iron
cially hard, due to quenching. As mentioned above, the for= does not exist. In the quick test procedure the formation of
mation of this surface depends chiefly on the composition of gas bubbles is strongly reduced. It occurs only after 6-7
the melt. hours whilst in ground material it can be observed within
This difference in the surface determines the different be• h hour. Therefore in operation agglomeration of the settled
haviour of the two powders with respect to powder does not occur. Experience teaches that even after
1. corrosion, shut=downs over the week=end sink=float plants can be re=
2. viscosity of pulp, and started without any trouble. After a run of 20 to 30 minutes
3. loss through "drag=out" or adhesion, ferrosilicon to mate• everything is in suspension, and the feeding of ore may be
rial treated. started. Of course, the formation of gas can be avoided only
These three items determine the cost of this medium in a with pulps which are not acid. Acidity may result when sui=
sink and float plant. There is further phidic ores are being treated. In this case hydrogen=sulphide
4. the properties of strength. is formed which lowers the pH. Continuous control of the
latter is then necessary to prevent it from dropping below 6.3.
I. Corrosion In such cases addition of small amounts of lime or washing
It is known that under the influence of water the ground soda is necessary. Loss through corrosion, for ground ferro•
powder, after some time, begins to give off hydrogen and ~ilicon up to 10-15 Ofo of the total loss, decreases consider•
to rust. When wetted repeatedly with water and allowed to ably when atomized ferrosilicon is used.

1. Viscosity of P11lp conceivable that, for example, fluorspar and barytes can be
separated at a pulp density of 3.8.
Only as long as the viscosity does not exceed the tolerable
limit, is the heavy liquid serviceable and suitable for sepa=
rating relatively small=sized feed. When plotting the viscosity 3. Adhesion- Losses
against the pulp density the range of serviceability is con= Due to the spherical shape and smooth surface of atomized
fined to the horizontal part and the first third of the rising ferrosilicon particles, the heavy media losses in practical ope=
part or the curve. Lacking a suitable measuring procedure for ration are reduced. Such losses are due to the fact that not
suspensions (non=Newtonian liquids) the viscosity was de= all of the ferrosilicon powder that adheres to the ore or
!ermined with a run=out viscositymeter. The graph (figure 3) gangue after treatment is removed by spraying the sink and
120 float products on the rinsing screens. It is obvious that a more
A Ground ferrosilicon~ 67flu
< O.Ob mm or less ball=shaped grain of powder rolls off a product par=
B Atomized ferros ilico n~ 8 tide more easily than does a cornered grain. In this respect
normal grade 1.5'1uclay,
the surface structure of the ore or gangue is another im=
0911 11 < o.oo mm
portant factor. With smooth product surfaces the losses in
c Alom11ed ferros.ilicon,
80 0~ ferrosilicon a re, of course, lower than with rough ones.
s pecial grade 1 su,o clay
spheres only. 73°u
I I ,e.
c.. By model tests it was possible to show that, as to adherence
<O.Ob mm I I I 60 v
losses, savings from 20 to 60 °/o are obtained. These tests
A .'j dl .!:
were carried out as follows: 100 g ore of a size fraction
II / € of 20-10 mm were put into the pulp for a short period,
'0 :;:0
J / > allowed to drain on a vibrating screen and for five seconds
..,(/ [/
20 moved under a spray. The individual pieces were taken from

v Vi . . . v this to another screen, and the rest of ferrosilicon washed off
- -.?,8 ~0 3,2 3,, 3,6 3,8 ,,2
with clean water. H aving repeated this 10 times, the water
was filtered off, and the ferrosilicon weighed. All conditions
Weight of pu lp, kgtl proved to be reproducible. The comparing measurements were
Fig ure J: Influence of particle shape (type of production/ of ferrosilicon carefully carried out by the same technician. Individual figu=
powder on viscosily of pulp.
res for adherence losses, in grammes per ton, are shown in
shows the influence of particle shape on viscosity. It has table I.
long been known that for the same pulp density and the Table 1
same screen size a spherical shape causes lower viscosity Tests to determine adherence losses for furnace-produced and
than material with corners and edges. The forces which cause atomized ferrosilicon, gm/ton.
particles to adhere to each other depend on the effective ad=
Furnace• Less use of
sorption and friction between the surfaces of such particles. Ore produced Atomized atomized
It is obvious that with particles of rough shape where the ferrosilicon ferrosilicon ferrosilicon
surface is made up, more or less, of actual p lanes which,
Chalcopyrite of Meggen 358 54 -85 Ofo
however, are at the same time rough in structure, adhesion
"fortuna" Iron Ore . 275 246 -11 °'o
will occur to a much greater extent than is possible with
Salzgitter Iron Ore 256 151 -41 11 n
ball=shaped particles the surfaces of which are smooth and Siderite, Siegerland . 148 59 -60 11 n
teflecting, a nd which offer conditions of ball=contact only. Pebbles
With atomized ferrosilicon the particle surface is still
Smooth but not shining 353 180 -49° 0
~moother than with originally cornered material which has
With fissures and cavities 520 410 -21%
been worn, in the course of time, to nearly spherical shape.
The latter has also been referred to as having spherical shape,
4. Strength Properties
but the particle surface is not shining and hard as with a
powder produced by atomization. For the same viscosity of It might be considered a disadvantage of the atomized pow=
approx. 12 centipoise, with cornered material according to der that especially in the coarser fractions the spheres or
the graph a pulp density of 3.3 can be a ttained, with atomiz= spherical shaped grains contain cavities which can be noticed
ed powder 3.45, and with a special grade consisting of sphe= under the microscope after particle destruction, and into
res only, a' pulp density of 3.7 can be reached, as has been which the pulp can penetrate. However, this has no bearing
shown in the second picture. In practice a density from 3.1 on its property as a heavy medium. If this property affected
to J .2 only is attainable with normally ground ferrosil icon the work it would be noticeable immediately in a decrease of
whereas 3.45 is reached with atomized material, and 3.9 with the true specific gravity, and it would be impossible to a ttain
special grade ferrosilicon. As regards the last mentioned high the above mentioned high pulp densities. There is only a small
pulp density operating results from larger p lants are as difference between the original powder and such as has been
yet not available; a susp«!nsion of 3.45 density, however, fu rther comminuted through grinding resulting in destruction
is being used in an extensive plant. Thus, the pulp den= of the balls; from this the ratio of dosed pores has been
sities so far attained in practical operation can be substan= found to be only 1.8 °/o. The reason for this is that only the
tially increased without increasing the viscosity. Vice versa, coarser fractions of the powder, and of which there exists
with equal values of pulp density the use of atomized ferro= but a small amount, show the mentioned cavities whereas
silicon will result in lower viscosity values than can be -the main powder fraction consists of < 0.1 mm grains. The
reached with the ground material. On this basis it may in latter contain no cavities, but are solid throughout. It is
future be possible to solve certain problems in mineral dress= conceivable that the cavities might have a further detrimen•
ing which so far have been intractable, as suitable pulp den= tal influence upon the strength of the individual particles.
sities were not attainable. for individual cases increase of On the other hand it is known that a hollow shape has a
pulp density will result in a sharper separation, and it is grea ter compressive strength than a solid body (a pipe has

a greater strength than a rod of the same diameter). Abrasion than for the atomized powder; however, the differences of
tests were therefore carried out with ground and atomized these measurements are small and may well be within the
ferrosilicon powder in a small ball mill. Equal size fractions tolerance of experimental errors_ From these abrasion tests
of 2---D mm were ground for several hours under uniform it may be concluded that the strength of the atomized
conditions, and the -60 micron fraction determined after powder is not less than that of the ground powder.

- -
= ·=

v v"'
1: 1:

~ 60 ~
..:" "

0.5 1.5 2 3 0,25 0,5 1,5 2 3

Grinding Time, hours Gri nding Time, hours

Figure 4: Abrasion tests with size fraction 0.2-0 mm Figure 5: Abrasion tt-sts with size f raction 0.09-0.06 mm
A = Ground ferrosilicon B = Atomized ferrosilicon A = Ground ferrosilicon B Atomized ferrosilicon

different grinding periods. The graph (figure 4) shows that To sum up, it may be stated that the good results experienc=
after a short period (1h hour) the ground ferrosilicon showed ed up till now with ferrosilicon pulps of ground powder have
increased abrasion, whereas after a longer period the atom= bee n improved with the atomized powder. This is proved by
ized ferrosilicon yielded a greater amount of fine material. the operational results of various separa tion plants over a
A chosen fraction of the total ma terial, for example 0.09- period of several years. The relevant journals have from time
0 06 mm (figure 5) shows greater abrasion for the ground to time published further information. (1)
(1) Erzmelall 5 (1952), page 11 4- Erzmelall 6 (1953), page 336- S lahl und Eisen (1954), pages 1071 , 1072, 1074, 1075.