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How to find the optimum air rate for flotation cells


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Author K Hadler and J J Cilliers


Air is fundamental to flotation; not only is it required to collect the valuable particles, but it also controls the froth stability and consequently the separation performance for a given feed. Froth stability can be described and quantified in numerous ways, which are subtly different. Air recovery is one such measure of froth stability which accounts for both the stability of the bubbles and the mobility of the froth. The benefit of using air recovery as a measure of froth stability is that it exhibits a peak as air flow rate is increased, and this corresponds to the air rate at which the optimal separation performance is obtained. As such, it provides a single target value for optimising air flowrate for a given set of feed conditions.

Use of air recovery, however, has one potential drawback: accurate measurement of the inlet air flow rate to a flotation cell is required. This can be problematic for operations, particularly where calibration of air flow rate is carried out infrequently or where there is no air flow rate measurement, such as for many self-aerated flotation cells. To this end, we present an alternative method for determining the peak in air recovery (PAR) air rate.

We introduce a simplified method for determining the PAR air rate using trends in froth velocity and overflowing froth height, both of which are readily measured using existing froth image analysis systems. We will show, using industrial data, the application of this simple technique to find the optimal air flowrate for flotation cells. We will also discuss other alternative techniques for air rate optimisation that have the potential to improve separation performance using existing technology.


Hadler, K and Cilliers, J J, 2018. How to find the optimum air rate for flotation cells, in Proceedings 14th AusIMM Mill Operators' Conference 2018, pp 377–384 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).