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A parametric comparative study of electrocoagulation and coagulation of aqueous suspensions of kaolinite and quartz powders

Gülsün Kılıç, Mehtap
Mineral treatment processes generally produce wastewaters containing ultrafine and colloidal particles that cause pollution upon their discharge into environment. It is essential that they should be removed from the wastewater before discharge. This study was undertaken by using synthetic turbid systems containing kaolinite and quartz particles in water with the amount of 0.20 g/L and 0.32 g/L, respectively. Removal of the turbidity was tried in two ways; electrocoagulation with aluminum anode and conventional coagulation with aluminum sulfate. Several key parameters affecting the efficiency of electrocoagulation and coagulation were investigated with laboratory scale experiments in search of optimal parameter values. Optimal values of the parameters were determined on the basis of the efficiency of turbidity removal from ultrafine suspensions. The parameters investigated in the study were suspension pH, electrical potential, current density, electrocoagulation time, and aluminum dosage. This study was also performed to compare electrocoagulation and conventional coagulation regarding the pH ranges under investigation and coagulant dosages applied. A comparison between electrocoagulation and coagulation was made on the basis of total dissolved aluminum, revealing that electrocoagulation and coagulation were equally effective at the same aluminum dosage for the removal of ultrafine particles from suspensions. Coagulation was more effective in a wider pH range (pH 5-8) than electrocoagulation, which yielded optimum effectiveness in a relatively narrower pH range around 9. In both methods, these pH values corresponded to near-zero zeta potentials of coagulated kaolinite and quartz particles. The mechanism for both coagulation methods was aggregation through charge neutralization and/or enmeshment in aluminum hydroxide precipitates. Furthermore, the experimental results confirmed that electrocoagulation could display some pH buffering capacity. The kinetics of electrocoagulation was very fast (<10 min) in approaching a residual turbidity, which could be modeled with a second-order rate equation.