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Why do particles float at contact angles below 90° and what is our recent understanding in hydrophobic bubble-particle attachment?

Rudolph, M.; Buchmann, M.; van den Boogaart, K. G.; Babel, B. M.

Even though froth flotation is by far the most important unit operation to separate fine particles in mineral processing as well as in recycling for a variety of raw materials, there are still manifold fundamental questions on the working principle. Ever since the flotation process has been developed and successfully applied in industry it was for example reported that for particles to float efficiently the macroscopic contact angle with water is well below 90°, even though every undergraduate student is taught, that hydrophobicity requires contact angles to exceed 90°.
In the last few years, we have developed a colloidal probe atomic force microscopy approach to allow for flotability mapping with direct force measurements. We found that the detachment forces of the hydrophobic colloidal probes from hydrophobized surfaces observed in aqueous conditions and supported by conventional contact angle measures, visualization of adsorption layers and laboratory microflotation studies on particle fractions is not reflected in existing detachment models. The additional observation that collectors of oily type in sulfide flotation and surfactant type in oxide mineral flotation adsorb in a heterogeneous patchy manor let us to extent existing detachment models which are based on numerically solving the Young-Laplace equation. Hence, we present a modelling approach for adhesion forces caused by gas-capillary interactions on surfaces with a macroscopic contact angle below 90°, which is not possible with previous models.
With our findings we can contribute to the question why flotability is indeed given for macroscopic contact angles below 90°.
Furthermore we will discuss these findings in the framework of the recent understanding of the crucial hydrophobic interactions leading to bubble-particle attachment including the theory of capillary waves. This is especially of interest for the recovery of very fine particles in highly turbulent processing environments.

  • Lecture (Conference) (Online presentation)
    Jahrestreffen der ProcessNet-Fachgruppen Lebensmittelverfahrenstechnik, Mischvorgänge, Grenzflächenbestimmte Systeme und Prozesse, 11.-12.03.2021, On-Line, Deutschland

Permalink: https://www.hzdr.de/publications/Publ-33858
Publ.-Id: 33858