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The Effect of Bubble Size on Fine Particle Flotation
R. H. YOON
a
& G. H. LUTTRELL
a
a
Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering , Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State
University , Blacksburg, Virginia, 24061, U.S.A
Published online: 06 Apr 2007.
To cite this article: R. H. YOON & G. H. LUTTRELL (1989) The Effect of Bubble Size on Fine Particle Flotation, Mineral
Processing and Extractive Metallurgy Review: An International Journal, 5:1-4, 101-122, DOI: 10.1080/08827508908952646
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08827508908952646
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Mineral Processing and Extractive Metallurgy Review. 1989. Vol. 5. pp. 101-122
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Printed in Great Britain
The Effect of Bubble Size on
Fine Particle Flotation
R. H. YOON and G. H. LUTIRELL
Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State
University, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061 U.S.A.
Expressions for the probability of collision (Pc) and adhesion (P
a)
have been derived for fine particle
flotation by calculating the trajectory of particles as they flow past a bubble in streamline flow. Three
different flow regimes have been considered in the present work. i.e .. Stokes. potential and
intermediate. For the intermediate flow conditions in which most flotation operations are carried out,
the particle trajectories have been determinedusingan empirical streamfunctionderivedin the present
work. For the case of a very hydrophobic coal sample. the values of the probability of collection (P)
determined experimentally have been found to be in close agreement with the theoretically predicted P;
values over a range of bubble and particle sizes.
The expression for P
u
has been derived by determining the time it takes for a particle to slide along the
surface of a bubble after collisioo. It has been assumed that the bubble-particle adhesion occurs whcn
the sliding time is equal to or exceeds the induction time, which varies with the particle hydrophobicity.
Pois shown to be a function of particle size, bubble size and induction time. The values of PQ predicted
in the present work are in good agreement with the results of microfiotation tests conducted on a coal
sample.
INTRODUCTION
As high-grade ore deposits are depleted. low-grade ores, which are usually fine-
grained and complex, have to be mined and processed. Beneficiation of these low-
grade ores requires fine grinding to liberate the finely-disseminated valuable
minerals from the waste rock, consuming a great deal of energy. Although the froth
flotation process developed at the turn of the century is still the best available
technology for separating mineral fines, its efficiency deteriorates rapidly with
decreasing particle size below approximately 10 ,um. Many investigators"? have
delineated various reasons for this difficulty, including high reagent consumption,
high rate of surface reactions. slime coating, morphological and surface chemical
changes during fine grinding, etc.
One important factor that was noted was the unfavorable hydrodynamic condi-
tions surrounding the bubbles generated in conventional flotation machines. It has
been shown that when bubbles are too large, fine particles follow the streamlines
around the bubbles due to their small inertial force and do not collide with the
lOt
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102 R. H. YOON AND G. H. LUTIRELL
bubbles. The consequence of this low probability of collision would be a low
flotation rate and, hence, poor recovery. Earlier work on the hydrodynamics of
bubble-particle adhesions'? suggested, however, that the probability of bubble-
particle collision can be improved greatly when using smaller bubbles. It is the
purpose of this chapter to address the importance of controlling the bubble size
during flotation. Bubble size is important in controlling not only the flotation
recovery but also the selectivity. Even the most hydrophobic particles require
appropriate hydrodynamic conditions for bubble-particle adhesion to occur after
the collision.
BACKGROUND
During the early stages of flotation research, most of the research efforts were
devoted to studies of reagent adsorption and surface wetting phenomena. Many of
the pioneering concepts of flotation chemistry were developed during this period,
particularly in the 1930's. It was not until the following decades that new theories
and experimental evidence demonstrating the importance of the physical inter-
actions in flotation began to emerge. The early experimental findings by Spedden
and Hanna10, and later by Whelan and Brown1', provided direct photographic
evidence for the important role of bubble-particle hydrodynamics in flotation. It
was the work done during this period that laid the foundation for our current
understanding of the bubble-particle collision and adhesion mechanisms that occur
during flotation.
Perhaps the first attempts to quantitatively describe the rate of flotation through
physical interactions between particles and bubbles were those of Gaudin" and
Schuhmann12, who considered the probability of bubble-particle collision to be a
fundamental parameter in determining the flotation rate. Their analyses were
greatly hampered, however, by the lack of detailed information concerning the
bubble-particle hydrodynamics. It was not until later that the first analytical rela-
tionships between the flotation rate and the hydrodynamics were derived by
Sutherland" in his landmark article entitled "Kinetics of the Flotation Process." In
this article, Sutherland assumed that the probability of particle collection (P) by a
bubble can be represented by,
(1)
where P; is the probability of collision between bubbles and particles, P
a
is the
probability of adhesion after collision, and Pd is the probability that subsequent
detachment would not occur. Each of these probabilities was then functionalized in
terms of bubble size and particle size by considering the case of a single particle
interacting with an isolated bubble rising in the flotation pulp. He assumed that
particles have no inertia and thus follow the streamlines around the bubbles, which
in turn are assumed to behave as non-deformable spheres. These assumptions'
allowed him to determine those probabilities directly from hydrodynamic con-
siderations. It was unfortunate, however, that the predictions made using his
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(2)
THE EFFECT OF BUBBLE SIZE ON FINE PARTICLE FLOTATION 103
theoretical analysis could not be supported by experimental data because he
considered only the case of potential or inviscid flow. The assumption of potential
flow is valid only for very high Reynolds numbers. Nonetheless, the basic concepts
outlined by Sutherland provided a framework upon which future investigators
could build.
Recognizing the shortfall of Sutherland's approach, Flint and Howarth13 numeri-
cally solved the equations of motion for a particle approaching a bubble using the
Navier-Stokes equations, and determined the probability of collision for mineral
flotation. This technique was similar to that employed by earlier investigators for
the study of dust collection by raindrops'v". Flint and Howarth's':' analysis was
later modified by Reay and Ratcliff 18, who derived their own expressions for
effluent treatment. Using a numerical solution technique, they showed that prob-
ability of collision (Pc) could be given by,
r, cc ~ Y
in which D
p
and Db, respectively, are the diameters of particles and bubbles. This
relationship explains why the flotation recovery should decrease with decreasing
particle size and, at the same time, suggests that theoretically this problem can be
alleviated by decreasing the bubble size.
More recently, a quantitative expression for particle capture by a nondeformable
spherical object has been derived by Weber
l 9
and Weber and Paddock?". In their
analysis, the probability of collision (PC> was determined analytically for the cases
of low Reynolds numbers. For larger Reynolds numbers, the expression was
modified by applying a curve-fitting technique to the numerical solutions to the
Navier-Stokes equations obtained by Masliyalr" and W00
22
. In this manner,
Weber and Paddock derived an expression for P; as follows:
_ ~ (P..e.)2[ (3/16)Re]
P, - 2 Db 1 + 1 + 0.249 Re
0
.56
(3)
in which Re is the Reynolds number of the bubble. Unlike previous studies, this
work was the first of its kind in which a single expression can predict P; for a wide
range of bubble and particle sizes. However, Weber and Paddock made no experi-
mental measurements to support their analysis.
A reduction in particle size not only leads to a decrease in flotation recovery, but
it can also have an adverse impact on flotation selectivity. The poor selectivity of
fine particle flotation has long been recognized and has generally been attributed
to many factors such as the high surface energy of fine particles, fine particles
stabilizing froth and nonselective entrainmcnrv". A more quantitative account of
this problem has been given by Sutherland". He considered that upon collision, a
particle slides over the bubble surface for a finite period of time, and this "sliding
time" is determined by the velocity of the liquid flowing past the rising bubble
and the size of the bubble. In cases where bubble-particle attachment is thermo-
dynamically possible, adhesion occurs only when the sliding time is longer than the
time required to thin and rupture the intervening film, known as the "disjoining
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104 R. H. YOON AND G. H. LUTTRELL
film", between the bubble and the particle. The minimum time that is required to
thin and rupture the film is known as "induction time". The induction time can be
subdivided into i) the time to thin to a critical thickness (HJ, and ii) the time
required for the thin film to spontaneously rupture to establish a three-phase
contact forming a contact angle.
It has been shown, however, that the time it takes for the thin film to rupture at
the thickness, He' is on the order of 10-
9
seconds, which is negligible compared to
the time required for the film thinning process. The experimentally determined
induction times reported in the literature are on the order of 10-
2
seconds or
greater. Thus, induction time refers essentially to the time required for the film
thinning and drainage process, which is determined by the hydrodynamics of the
system. The value of He, on the other hand, is determined by the thermodynamics
of the system. The technique for measuring induction time was first conceived by
Sven-Nillsorr'", and implemented by Eigeles and Volova?", Glcmbotsky'? and Evans
and Ewers" in mineral flotation systems. An improved version of Glernbotsky's'"
apparatus for measuring induction time has been reported more recently by
Yordan and Yoorr".
The sliding/induction time concept provides a convenient framework for quanti-
fying the probability of bubble-particle adhesion (P
a
) . This type of analysis has
recently been utilized by Dobby and Finch:" for modeling fine particle flotation.
Although their model is identical conceptually to that proposed by Sutherland",
the assumption of potential flow has now been eliminated and, as a result, the
predictions are considerably more realistic.
Two major findings have been made from the work of Dobby and Finch
3o
. First,
their model suggests that the decrease in floatability with increasing particle size
beyond the upper flotation limit is due to a decrease in P
a
Previously, it was
explained by an increase in the inertial force with increasing particle size, which in
turn increases the detachment force and, hence, decreases Pd. Secondly, the model
suggests that P; for very small particles, e.g., less than 10.um, is very high and
somewhat independent of the hydrophobic/hydrophilic nature of particle surfaces.
This finding implies that selectivity will be very poor when floating fine particles.
However, many investigators/"?" have shown in experiments that ultrafine
particles can be selectively recovered by flotation.
MODEL DEVELOPMENT
The process of collecting particles by bubbles generally takes place in a complex
and highly turbulent environment inside a flotation cell. It may be assumed,
however, that as the distance separating the particle and the bubble decreases,
conditions will develop which may to some extent be simulated by an unperturbed
flow field. This would particularly be the case of pneumatic or column flotation
where no external agitation is employed. It is then possible to quantify some of the
fundamental sub-processes occurring in flotation for a number of ideal and
simplified cases.
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(4)
THE EFFECr OF BUBBLE SIZE ON FINE PARTICLE FLOTATION 105
Bubble-Particle Collision
Let us consider the case of an isolated bubble rising through a suspension of
particles in a quiescent environment. As the liquid sweeps past the bubble, a flow
pattern represented by an infinite series of streamlines develops. Streamlines are
defined so that a velocity vector of the fluid at every point on the line is tangent to
the streamline at a given instant. Arrangement of the streamlines depends on the
properties of the fluids involved and the geometry of the obstacle placed in the flow
field. It is conceivable that small particles having negligible inertial force will follow
the streamline. while large particles deviate from the streamline.
Stokes number (St), which represents a ratio of inertial to drag forces, is useful
for determining the tendency of a particle to adjust to changes in fluid flow.
Particles having small values of 51 will follow the streamlines closely, while those
having larger values of St will deviate from the streamlines. The following equation
gives the Stokes number,
51 = (PE)2Re
9 (21 Db
as a function of the Reynolds number (Re) of the bubble, particle diameter (D
p
) ,
bubble diameter (Db), particle density (Op) and liquid density (0,). As shown,
the tendency of a particle to follow a streamline around the bubble depends on both
bubble and particle sizes. It can be readily shown that for Db of 1 mm and Op of
2.6 gm/crrr', the inertial forces need not be considered for particles smaller than
approximately 50.um in diameter.
If particle inertia can be neglected, one can then consider that particles follow
streamlines and calculate the probability of collision from the streamline pattern.
For mathematical convenience, a bubble can be considered stationary while the
fluid is moving past the bubble at a velocity equal to the terminal rise velocity of the
bubble but in the opposite direction (Figure 1). Polar coordinates are used to locate
a point in the fluid. The bubbles and particles under consideration are assumed to
behave as rigid spheres, which is reasonable for bubbles less than approximately
1200.um in diameter" and for finely ground particles".
The trajectory of a particle is considered to be determined by the streamline
which passes through its center':', For obvious reasons, this assumption becomes
less valid as the ratio of particle to bubble diameter increases. Assuming that the
streamlines come closest to the bubble at its equator, a grazing streamline is
defined as the one passing through the distance of particle radius (R
p
) at the
equator and the distance of R
o
at an infinite distance from the bubble. It is clear,
then, that of the particles located in the path of the bubble, only those within the
limiting radius, R
o
, will collide with the bubble. Those which lie outside this area
will sweep past the bubble without having an opportunity for contact. The prob-
ability of collision, which is defined as the fraction of particles in the path of the
bubble that actually collide with it, is therefore determined by the ratio of the area
(A
o
) inscribed by the limiting radius (R
o
) to the area (A
b
) inscribed by the bubble
radius (R
b
) . Thus, the probability of collision (Pc) is given as:
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106 R. H. YOON AND G. H. LUITRELL
FIGURE 1 Polar coordinate system describing the trajectory of a particle moving past a bubble in
streamline flow.
(5)
The value of R
o
is unknown and must be determined from the mathematical
description of the grazing streamline. The denominator of equation (5) should
actually be (R
b
+ R
p
) , but equation (5) holds when R
b
R
p
.
Because of its importance in a wide range of disciplines, the study of fluid flow
around a spherical obstruction (such as a raindrop or a bubble) is a classical
problem with extensive literature. Particularly detailed in the literature is the case
of low Reynolds numbers for which analytical solutions to the Navier-Stokes and
continuity equations are possible. For the case of higher Reynolds numbers, several
approximate numerical solutions have also been presented
40
-45. Flow conditions
'represeritative of very high Reynolds numbers (inviscid flow) can be approximated
by the potential flow solution to the Navier-Stokes equations.
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THE EFFECf OF BUBBLE SIZE ON FINE PARTICLE FLOTATION 107
Stokes flow conditions For cases where Reynolds number is much less than unity,
the streamlines are described by the well-known Stokes stream function (l/J), which
may be expressed mathematically as,
(6)
where Ub is the bubble rise velocity, () and r are the angular and radial coordinates,
respectively, as defined in Figure 1, and x = rlR
b
. At a distance far ahead of the
bubble,
sin /I = Rolr,
which can be substituted into equation (6) to yield,
= 21/1lub'
(7)
(8)
(10)
(11)
(12)
(14)
as R approaches infinity. By combining equations (5), (6), and (8), the probability
of particle collision (Pc) for Stokes flow is obtained as follows:
p =.J::L = sin
2
/1 (x
2
- X + -l) (9)
c ubRl 2 2x'
For the limiting case of the particle just grazing off the bubble equator,
r = R
p
+ R
b
X = 1 + RplR
b,
and
/I = 90.
Substituting equations (11) and (12) into equation (9), one can obtain,
P, = (13)
which is in identical form as the one obtained by Gaudin'". Equation (13) shows
that the probability of collision for Stokes flowconditions varies as the square of the
RplR
b
ratio.
Potential flow conditions For the potential flow conditions (very large Reynolds
numbers), the stream function is given by the following equation:
1/1 = ubRlsin2/1 -
Using the same procedure employed for the Stokes flow conditions, one can obtain
P; for potential flow conditions as follows,
_ (!!e.)
P, - 3 R
b
'
(15)
which is of the same form as derived by Sutherland". As shown, the probability of
collision varies linearly with the RplR
b
ratio as opposed to a squared relationship
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108 R. H. YOON AND G. H. LUTIRELL
(16)
(18)
for Stokes flow. This means that the particle-to-bubble size ratio has a much more
significant effect on flotation in Stokes flow regions than in potential flow regions.
Intermediate flow conditions The preceeding analyses are useful for determining
collision probabilities at extremely small and large Reynolds numbers. However,
the range of Reynolds numbers encountered for the sizes of bubbles typically
employed during flotation fall into a range between 0.2 to 100. As a result, neither
of the previous solutions is appropriate for describing the flotation process.
Therefore, a new stream function for intermediate Reynolds numbers (l/J) has
been developed in the present investigation by combining the Stokes and potential
flow equations, i.e., equations (6) and (14), respectively. These two equations are
special cases of the following expression,
2 . 2 [I 2 3 1 3aJ
1jJ = UhRhSIn e -x - -ax - - +-
2 4 2x 4x
where a is a dimensionless parameter which varies between 0 and 1. If the value of
a is set equal to 0, equation (16) is reduced to equation (14), while if a is set equal
to I. it becomes equation (6). Thus, the values of a between 0 and 1represent cases
of intermediate Reynolds numbers.
I n order to determine the values of a as a function of Re for intermediate flow
conditions, streamline patterns around a spherical obstruction have been collected
from literature for a wide range of Reynolds numbers/! .40.47-51. Far ahead of the
spherical obstruction, a given streamline can be uniquely identified by a fixed value
of R
o
. Therefore, by directly measuring the values of R
o
from the streamline
patterns obtained at a given Reynolds number and knowing the values of bubble
rise velocity (Uh). one can determine l/J for each streamline using equation (8).
Once the values of l/J are known, the values of a can then be determined from
equation (16) for any combination of rand O. The a values obtained as such are
plotted as a function of (I - IIx) for Reynolds numbers of 1. 10, 50 and 100, as
Shown in Figure 2. It was found that the a values can be normalized with respect to
Reynolds number using the relationship:
a = 1 - 4Re
72
[I - .!.] (17)
45 x
for Reynolds numbers of 0 to 100. Equation (17) may also be applicable for
Re > 100, although no experimental (streamline) data have been available in the
present work.
Substitution of equation (17) into equation (16) yields a generalized stream
function for intermediate Reynolds numbers as follows:
," = UR
2
sin
2
e[.!. x
2
- + 1- + Re
72
( "; _.!. + X-I)]
'r h h 2 4 4x 15 x- x
Note here that as the Reynolds number approaches zero, equation (18) is reduced
to equation (6), which is for Stokes flow conditions.
In Figure 3, each of the stream functions, i.e., equations (6), (14) and (16), has
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THE EFFECT OF BUBBLE SIZE ON FINE PARTICLE FLOTATION 109
0.6 0.5
o
0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1
0.0 L-_---J__-----'__-----'-__-----"-__----L__---J
0.0
oRe = 1
eRe = 10
.. Re = 50
Re = 100

I
0..
<i
1-1/X
FIGURE 2 a versus I - I1X plot at various Reynolds numbers.
8=60
z
o
I- 0.5 r---.----....-----,-----r.,------,
U
Z
::>
u, 0.4
::E
<r
w
0:: 0.3
I-
en
0.2
W
...J
Z
00.1
en
Z
w
::E
zs
FIGURE 3 Dimensionless stream function versus dimensionless radial distance for a range of
Reynolds numbers at () = 600.
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110 R. H. YOON AND G. H. LUlTRELL
been made dimensionless by dividing it with and plotted as a function of
dimensionless radial distance from the bubble surface, i.e., R/R
b
- 1, for com-
parison. It shows that as the Reynolds number increases there is an upward shift of
the stream function toward that of potential flow.
From equation (18), an expression for P; applicable for intermediate Reynolds
numbers can now be derived. Using the same procedure as employed for Stokes
and potential flow conditions, it can be readily shown that,
= [l 4Re.
72
](I!)2
r. 2 + 15 R
b
' (19)
Equation (19) shows that P; varies with and inversely with as is the case
with Stokes flow conditions (equation (13)). However, equation (19) is also a
function of the Reynolds number of the bubble, so that P; does not vary exactly as
the inverse square of the bubble size. It can be shown that for bubbles of very large
Reynolds numbers,
r, oc un,
and for bubbles of small Reynolds numbers,
r, oc
(20)
The three expressions for P; applicable in different Reynolds number regions,
i.e., equations (13), (15) and (19), can be summarily represented by the following
single expression:
800 600 400 200
-4 L-_......L.-_........ __........ __.......__.......
o 1000
0
D
p
=10jJm
-I
-
-2
---
t9
s
-3
BUBBLE DIAMETER (J.lm)
FIGURE 4 Relationship between P< and Do for potential, intermediate and Stokes flowconditions for
D
p
= 10I'm.
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THE EFFECT OF BUBBLE SIZE ON FINE PARTICLE FLOTATION 111
TABLE I
Values of n and A determined for Stokes, potential and intermediate flow conditions.
Flow Conditions
Stokes
Intermediate (Present Work)
Intermediate (Weber and Paddock. 1983)
Potential
A
3/2
3 4Reo."
-+--
2 15
~ [1 + _o.::(3::..;/1:.::6t..:.)R.:.:ec:-::::]
2 1 + O.249Re
tl 56
3
n
2
2
2
(22)
r, = ~ r
in which A and n are the parameters which vary depending on the Reynolds
number. Table I gives the values of A and n for the three different flow regimes
considered in the present work, i.e., Stokes, potential and intermediate flow. Also
shown in this table are the values of A and n obtained by Weber and Paddock".
For the flow conditions pertinent to most flotation operations, n is equal to 2. The
values of A are 3/2 and 3 for Stokes and potential flow conditions, respectively,
while they vary with the Reynolds number of the bubble for the intermediate flow
conditions.
Figure 4 compares the P; values for lO-,um particles calculated as a function of
bubble size using the expressions given in Table I. The Stokes flow solution agrees
with the solutions for the intermediate flow range only for the case of very small
bubbles. The potential flow solution obtained by Sutherland" is far from those of
the intermediate flow cases considered in the present work. The dashed line repre-
sents equation (3) derived by Weber and Paddock?". As shown, there is agreement
between Weber and Paddock's predictions and those of the present work despite
the differences in their functional forms.
Bubble-Particle Adhesion
Clearly, not all particles which collide with bubbles become attached. Otherwise,
no separation would be possible by flotation. Qualitatively, only those particles that
are hydrophobic enough attach themselves to the bubble by forming a three-phase
contact with a finite contact angle. To be able to accurately predict flotation
response, it is therefore necessary to evaluate the probability of adhesion in
addition to the P; term that has been considered in the foregoing section. For the
small particles considered in the present work, detachment need not be considered',
i.e., P" = 1.
As soon as a particle collides with a bubble, it begins to slide over the surface of
the bubble and resides on it for a finite period of time, which is generally referred
to as the "sliding" time. The magnitude of the sliding time is determined by the
velocity at which the liquid sweeps the particle along the bubble surface. During
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112 R. H. YOON AND G. H. LUTIRELL
\ SLIDING
'rDISTANCE
FIGURE 5 Polar coordinate system used in determining the critical angle of incidence and probability
of adhesion.
this time period, the intervening film of water must be thinned and ruptured if the
particle is to be attached to the surface of the bubble and eventually collected
in the froth phase. The sweeping action of the particle over the bubble surface
has been verified experimentally and is well documented". A limited number of
experimentally measured sliding times have also been reported by Schulze and
Gottschalk".
Bubble-particle attachment should occur when the sliding time is longer than the
induction time", which is defined as the time required for the film thinning process.
Therefore, the particle must slide a finite distance over the bubble surface before
the attachment occurs. For a given bubble and particle size, the distance travelled
by a particle along the surface of a bubble is a function of the angle of incidence (6;)
at which the particle strikes the bubble. Only when 6; is smaller than the limiting
angle (6
0
) will the particle have a sliding time longer than the induction time and
become attached.
The probability of bubble-particle adhesion (Pa) can now be defined as the
fraction of particles in the path of the bubble that actually adhere to the bubble. In
reference to Figure 5, Po should be the ratio of the area inscribed by the limiting
radius (Rol to the area inscribed by the sum of the bubble and particle radii
(R; + R,,). Using this concept, P ~ can be mathematically expressed as,
r, = (R
h
~ R
p
) 2 (23)
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THE EFFEcr OF BUBBLE SIZE ON FINE PARTICLE FLOTATION 113
or,
(24)
(25)
(26)
(27)
The value of the limiting angle (8
0
) is determined by the magnitude of the
tangential velocity of the particle as it slides over the bubble surface. The velocity
of a small particle can be assumed to be the same as that of a streamline passing
through its center!". Therefore, the sliding velocity of a particle is determined by
the tangential velocity of the streamline (u,) at a distance of one particle radius
from the bubble surface. The particle sliding time (t
s
) can then be calculated by
dividing the arc length travelled by the particle by the velocity of the particle, i.e.,
J
"12 R
b
+ R
t, = PdO.
0
0
Ur
An upper integration limit of 7[/2 is used since the streamline flow will move a
particle away from the bubble surface after it passes the bubble equator.
For axisymmetric flow around a rigid sphere, the instantaneous tangential
velocity of the fluid (u ,) can be determined from the stream function (1/J) as follows,
U _ _ ~
Rsin 0 dr
in which r is the radial distance between the center of the bubble and the streamline
in question and 8 is the angular coordinate (see Figure 1).
As has been discussed in the foregoing paragraph, the choice of an appropriate
stream function depends on the flow conditions characterized by the Reynolds
number. The stream functions for the Stokes, intermediate and potential flow
conditions are given by equations (6), (18) and (14), respectively. Substituting
these stream functions into equation (26), one can obtain u, of the fluid at any point
in the vicinity of the bubble.
Substituting equation (26) into equation (25), followed by integration, one can
obtain an expression for t
s
which will become a function of 8
0
, Solving it for 0
0
,
and substituting it into equation (24), an expression for P" can be obtained. The t
s
term in this expression can be substituted directly by induction time (t;) since Is = ti
when 8j = 00-
The expressions for P
a
have been derived in this manner for the three different
flow conditions and are given as follows:
P
_ . 2[2 {-3U
bli
} ]
u - SIn arctan exp 2R
b(Rb/Rp
+ 1)
for the Stokes flow conditions,
_ 2 [ r-(45 + 8Re.
72
) Uh
1
i}]
P; - SIn 2 arctan expl 30R
b(Rb/Rp
+ 1)
for the intermediate flow conditions, and
P
_ . 2[2 { -
3U
b
l
; }]
Q - SIn arctan exp 2( R
p
+ R
b
)
(28)
(29)
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114 R. H. YOON AND G. H. LUTTRELL
for the potential flow conditions. Since each of these expressions is in the form of a
sine function, the value of P
a
falls between zero and unity. This is an improvement
over the numerical solutions obtained by Dobby and Finch
30
whose P; values
exceed 1 when the bubble size is very small or the induction time is short. A sample
calculation for using equation (28) may be given here: a weakly floating particle
whose t, = 100 msec and D" = lO.um will have its P
a
= 0.08. If t, is reduced to
10 msec by increasing the collector addition, for example, P
a
will increase to 0.98.
To demonstrate the utility of equation (28), which is more applicable than the
other two to most flotation practice, P; is plaited in Figure 6 as a function of
particle size (D,,) for the case of 1000-.um diameter bubbles and particles with
induction time (I;) values of 10, 20, 30 and 50 msec. As expected, the smaller the
induction time, the higher the value of P
a
for a given particle size. More
importantly, P" is shown to increase with decreasing particle size, which is a result
of the lower tangential velocity (u
t
) and hence the longer sliding time for smaller
particles. Thus, equation (28) suggests that small particles become attached more
readily than large particles once the collision has taken place.
Db' 1000 microns
c
0
(f)
Q)
-C
"D

'+-
0
P 0.4
...0
0
...0
0
0.2
L
0....
0.0
a 20 40 60 80 100
Particle Diameter (Microns)
FIGURE 6 Effect of particle size on the probability of adhesion for induction times of 10. 20, 30 and
50 msec.
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THE EFFECf OF BUBBLE SIZE ON FINE PARTICLE FLOTATION 115
1.0
C
0
(f)
ill
...c
-0
<t:

0
z;-.
-
...0
0
...0
0
L
Q..
400 800 1200 1600 2000
Bubble Diameter (Microns)
FIGURE 7 Effect of bubble size on the probability of adhesion for induction times of 10, 20, 30and 50
msec.
In Figure 7, equation (28) is plotted as a function of bubble size (Db) for the case
of floating 20-,um particles having I; values of 10, 20, 30 and 50 msec. As has been
shown to be the case in Figure 6, a decrease in Ii results in an increase in P
a
, which
requires no further explanation. At a given Ii, P; is shown to increase with
decreasing Db until a bubble size of approximately 350,um is reached. This is due
to the fact that as the bubble size is reduced, the bubble rise velocity (Ub) is also
reduced, which in turn results in' an increased sliding time (Is)' A further decrease
in Di; however, causes a decrease in the sliding distance, which results in a de-
crease in t, and hence a decreased P
a
.
The changes in P
a
with particle and bubble size have important implications
regarding flotation selectivity. Let us consider strongly and weakly floating (i.e.,
middling) particles having induction times of 10 msec and 100 msec, respectively,
and calculate the P; values using equation (28) as a function of particle size using
two different bubble sizes, i.e., 100 and 1000 ,urn in diameter. As a means of
quantifying selectivity by means of P
a
, a "selectivity index" is defined as follows:
(30)
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116 R. H. YOON AND G. H. LUlTRELL
1.0
I I I
/'
I
I
I
O.B r- I -
X
I
Q)
I
U
I
C
0.6 f-
I
-
1
>, I
.......,
I
>
I
.......,
0.4 l-
I
-
U
Q) I
-
I
Q)
--- 1000 microns
(f)
I
0.2 1-1
-- 100 microns
-
1
I
0.0 II'
I I I I
0 20 40 60 BO 100
Particle Diameter (Microns)
FIGURE 8 Effect of particle size on the selectivity index for bubbles of 100 ,urn and 1000,urn in
diameter.
in which the superscripts sand w refer to strongly and weakly floating particles. The
larger the value of SI, the higher the efficiency of the flotation separation will be.
The results given in Figure 8 show that SI remains high until the particle size is
reduced to approximately 40,um. Below this, the SI decreases very rapidly with
decreasing particle size and eventually passes through zero for an infinitely small
particle. This finding is similar to, those of Dobby and Finch
30
who also showed that
selectivity diminishes with decreasing particle size. Thus, to counter the effect of
deteriorating selectivity with decreasing particle size, it would be necessary for the
induction time difference between the hydrophobic and the hydrophilic particles to
be increased by chemical additives. It should be noted, however, that as the particle
size is reduced, the population of composite (or middling) particles will be reduced,
which in turn will increase the induction time difference between the floatable and
the non-floatable particles, thereby increasing the separation efficiency. Figure 7
also shows that the difference between using 100- or lOOO-pm bubbles is minimal,
although 1DO-pm bubbles tend to show a slightly higher selectivity.
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THE EFFECf OF BUBBLE SIZE ON FINE PARTICLE FLOTATION 117
MODEL VALIDATION
Two series of experiments were undertaken to establish the validity of the
preceding theoretical analyses. In the first set of tests, the probability of collection
(P) was determined for a single bubble rising through a suspension of very
hydrophobic coal particles. The value of P determined as such may closely ap-
proximate the probability of collision (Pc) since the probability of adhesion (P
a)
for
very hydrophobic particles should approach unity. In the second set of tests, P
a
values were determined from experimentally measured values of induction time (li)
for a run-of-mine coal sample, and compared with microflotation results. The
particles used in the flotation experiments were so large that the probability of
collision (Pc) may be considered unity. This will allow a direct comparison between
Pa and floatability.
Validation of the Probability of Collision Model
Figure 9 shows the results of probability of collection (P) measurements conducted
on the Buller seam coal, New Zealand, as a function of bubble size. This coal
z
0
l-
t>
W
....J
....J
0
0.1
t>
u,
0
>-
I-
0.01
....J
CD
<t
CD 6
0
a::
a..
o 500 600
BUBBLE DIAMETER (jJm)
FIGURE 9 Comparison of experimental probability of collection (points) versus the probability of
collision determined using Equation (19) for different bubble and particle sizes.
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118 R. H. YOON AND G. H. LUTIRELL
contained only 0.13% ash and was very hydrophobic as mined. The apparatus and
experimental procedure used in the determination of P have been described
elsewherc'". Experiments were carried out using samples having 40.1-, 31.0- and
11.4-pm mean diameters. The solid lines in this figure represent the theoretical
probability of collision (Pc) calculated using equation (19). As has already been
noted, the probability of collection (P) measured in experiment should be equal to
Pc, if P; is assumed to be unity for this particular coal sample. Both the
experimental P and the calculated P; values show a drastic increase as the bubble
diameter is reduced. Considering the log-scale used for plotting P, the benefits of
using small bubbles for fine particle flotation are quite substantial. Ingeneral, there
is excellent agreement between the theory and the experiment. Note, however,
that the experimental P values are considerably higher than predicted when
collecting large particles with large bubbles. This discrepancy may be attributed to
the likelihood that the large particles deviate from the streamlines due to inertial
force. The lack of fit observed when using small bubbles to collect the 11.4-pm
particles may be due to some sort of surface force which becomes more pre-
dominant as particle size becomes very small.
100
1.0
c Recovery
o Po
C
() Induction Time
0 8
,.-....
80 (fJ
(fJ
E Q)
,.-....
J::
<::
-0
Q)
'-../

6
>,
'+-
E
L
0 i-=
Q)
>
J:;-
C
0
4
0
U
:;::;
Q)
.0
U
o: 0
:J
.0
2
-0
0
C
L
0....
a 0.0 a
a 5 10 15 20 25
Oxidation Time (Days)
FIGURE 10 Effect of oxidation time on recovery induction time and probability of adhesion predicted
using Equation (28).
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THE EFFECT OF BUBBLE SIZE ON FINE PARTICLE FLOTATION 119
Validation of the Probability of Adhesion Model
A run-ot-rruue Elkhorn seam coal, Virginia, having a feed ash of IS.S'Y" was used
for both the microflotation and induction time measurements. Flotation tests were
conducted using a 22-mm diameter Partridge and Smith'" type microflotation cell.
The induction time apparatus employed in these experiments has been described
elsewhere by Yordan and Yoorr", and is similar to that used by Eigeles and
Votova"'.
Figure 10 shows the results of the microflotation tests and the induction time
measurements carried out on the coal sample aged (or oxidized) in water at an
ambient temperature for varied lengths of time. In general, a prolonged oxidation
resulted in an increase in induction time and a corresponding decrease in float-
ability. When the coal sample was fresh, the recovery was approximately 70%,
while after 20 days of oxidation, the floatability was reduced to approximately
20%. Also shown in Figure 10 is the probability of adhesion (Po) predicted using
equation (28). The predictions were made by substituting the measured induction
times into the equation along with the experimental variables, such as particle
size and bubble size, employed in the flotation experiments. As shown, the Po
values calculated as such decrease rapidly as the induction time increases and show
a reasonable agreement with the experimental floatabilities. The calculated Po
values are considerably lower than the fractional floatabilities (% floatability
divided by 100), but the trend is the same. If the flotation time had been shorter
than actually employed (1 minute), the calculated Po values would have been more
closely matched by the flotation results.
As another example, a series of microflotation experiments were conducted on
the Elkhorn seam coal at various pH values, and the results are compared in Figure
11 with the P; values calculated from the induction times measured concurrently
and the particle and bubble sizes employed in the flotation experiments. The
floatability is shown to reach a maximum at approximately pH 8, where the
induction time is minimum. Although the predicted Po values are significantly
higher than the fractional floatabilities, the Po values calculated using equation (28)
can predict the trend and the maximum flotation pH reasonably well. In this case,
the predicted Po values would have been closer to the flotation results if the
flotation time had been longer than actually employed. The results given in Figures
10 and 11 demonstrate that results of microflotation experiments can be predicted
from induction time, particle size and bubble size, and by considering the flotation
time as an adjustable parameter.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
Particle collection during flotation has been divided into two elementary sub-
processes, i.e., bubble-particle collision and adhesion. Detailed hydrodynamic
analysis of the bubble-particle interaction resulted in the development of functional
forms for probability of collision (Pc) and probability of adhesion (Po)' This was
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120 R. H. YOON AND G. H. LUITRELL
Q)
E
i-=
c
o
:..;::;
U
::J
-0
C
5
4
3
2
o
c
o
(f)
Q)
...c
-0
<{
...0
o
...0
o
l....
0..
10 a 6 4 2
6. Induction TIme
c Recovery
o Po
o L-_---l__--'-__----'-__-"-__--L__0.0
o 12
ao
1OOr---r---r---,..---,..---,..-----, 1.0
20
c
Q)
>
o 40
U
Q)
0::::
pH
FIGURE II Effect of pH on recovery, induction time and probability of adhesion predicted using
Equation (28).
made possible by deriving a stream function that can describe the streamlines
around a bubble in the intermediate Reynolds number range, e.g., 0-100. The
stream function has been derived using a curve-fitting technique for the streamline
patterns available in literature. In deriving an expression for Po assumptions have
been made that particles are much smaller than bubbles, have no inertia and,
therefore, are subjected to streamline flow. .
The results of the present work show that Pc varies as the square of the particle
size (D
p
) and inversely as the square of the bubble size (Db)' This finding is the
same as that obtained by Gaudin?" for Stokes flow conditions except that the
proportionality constant is shown to vary with the Reynolds number. The P; values
predicted at various particle sizes and bubble sizes are in good agreement with the
probability of collection (P) determined experimentally using a hydrophobic coal
sample whose P
a
values approximate unity.
The availability of the stream function allowed calculation of tangential velocity
profiles of the fluids around the bubble, which in turn made it possible to determine
the particle sliding time. By relating the sliding time with the induction time (r.), an
expression for P; has been derived which is shown to be a function of induction
time, particle size and bubble size. It shows that P
a
increases with decreasing
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THE EFFECT OF BUBBLE SIZE ON FINE PARTICLE FLOTATION 121
induction time and also with decreasing particle size. The latter finding suggests
that it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve selectivity with decreasing particle
size. With respect to bubble size, P; reaches a maximum at approximately 350,um
for the case of floating 20-,um particles of different induction times. The P
a
values
predicted from the experimentally determined induction times and the bubble size
and particle size used in the microflotation experiments are in reasonable agree-
ment with the flotation results.
Acknowledgments
The authors which to acknowledge the financial support for this research which has been provided by the
U.S. Department of Energy under a University Coal Research Grant (No. DE-FG22-83PC60806) and
Sponsored Contract (No. DE-AC22-86PC91221). They are also grateful to Beth Dillinger Howell for
her patient assistance with the manuscript.
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2068(1957).
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