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A contribution to exploring the importance of surface air nucleation in froth flotation – The effects of dissolved air on graphite flotation

Xu, M.; Li, C.; Zhang, H.; Kupka, N.; Peuker, U. A.; Rudolph, M.


The formation of surface microbubbles induced by air nucleation on graphite surfaces and the air diffusion process in oversaturated water play important roles in increasing the recovery of graphite and other valuable minerals in flotation. A microscope equipped with a cuvette, a laser diffraction particle size analyzer, and single bubble pick-up experiments were combined with micro-flotation experiments to clarify these effects. The diffusion-controlled growth process of surface microbubbles was observed with a microscope. It can be shown that higher degrees of dissolved air can improve the probability of surface microbubbles forming on graphite surfaces. Micro-flotation and microscopic experiments confirmed that surface microbubbles occurred selectively on graphite surface but not quartz. Besides, bubble-particle aggregates formed during the conditioning process were observed under the microscope while bubble pick-up experiments indicated that the bubble load increased with the increasing degree of dissolved air. Size distribution analysis also showed that the nucleation microbubbles on graphite surfaces improved the recovery of fine graphite particles due to the formation of microbubble-particle aggregates. Coarser microbubble-particle aggregates induced by surface nucleation bubbles can improve the collision and attachment probability to external carrying bubbles compared to single graphite particles, which is especially relevant for fine particles. This study indicates that nucleation microbubbles on graphite surfaces can significantly promote flotation efficiency, and shows the importance of air nucleation on mineral surfaces in flotation process.

Keywords: surface microbubbles; air nucleation; diffusion; flotation; bubble-particle aggregates



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