Effect of pH on the flocculation behaviors of kaolin using a pH-sensitive copolymer

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

pH-sensitive copolymers have been widely introduced to achieve rapid dewatering and consolidation of solids in mining and oil sands processing wastes. But no more attention has been given to the flocculation efficiency of solid suspensions as a function of pH using pH-sensitive copolymer. In this study, a pH-sensitive copolymer was synthesized and employed to investigate the flocculation behaviors of kaolin by focused beam reflectance measurement (FBRM). A titration test was introduced to characterize the copolymer conformation transition. The results demonstrated that at pH ranging from 3 to 6, with the pH increase, the zeta potential magnitude of kaolin particles increased, resulting in the repulsive forces between particles increasing. However, the hydrophobicity of kaolin increased as the pH increased. Thus, the hydrophobic forces could neutralize a part of the repulsive forces between particles and result in good and similar flocculation performances. At the pH greater than 6, the zeta potential magnitude of kaolin particles and copolymer molecules increased significantly, and the repulsive force between kaolin particles increased after copolymer addition due to the kaolin particles being more negatively charged, which resulted in poor flocculation efficiency and cloudy supernatant. It was concluded that the pH-sensitive copolymer could achieve both perfect flocculation efficiency and low moisture of filter cake at the isoelectric point of copolymer.

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