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Models making a difference for mineral processors

09 December, 2009

Advanced mathematical modelling is significantly improving the performance of unit operations used in the mineral processing industry.

CSIRO researchers working through the Minerals Down Under Flagship have used computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modelling to examine the flow patterns within unit operations such as fluidised beds, hydrocyclones, flotation cells, settling tanks, thickeners and gravity separation devices.

Information generated by the models can then be used to optimise the unit operation, or to improve equipment design. Multi-metals business, Nyrstar, used CFD modelling to identify the cause of brick degradation in a roaster dome at its Tasmanian zinc smelter.

The technique was then used to examine a range of possible solutions, giving the company confidence in its selection of a final solution. Mineral processing technology provider, Outotec, used CFD modelling to get a clear picture of solids distribution, fluid flow and flocculant performance in its new vane feedwell design, which led to a slight tweaking of the design, targeted to improve overall thickener performance.

Mineral processing equipment provider, Gekko Systems, also used CFD modelling to better understand the flow of materials inside its gravity separation device product – the In-Line Pressure Jig, which gave them a clear understanding of the complex flows within the jig bed.

Dr Phil Schwarz from the Minerals Down Under Flagship said CFD modelling offers a number of benefits, but it is the detailed understanding of the flows and related chemistry that make the technique of real value to industry.

"CFD allows us to identify complex flow patterns, reactions and heat transfer occurring at a range of scales within these unit operations," Dr Schwarz said.

"Having this understanding means we are able to optimise processes and equipment mathematically, which means there’s less of a need to construct expensive pilot plants."

The application of CFD modelling in the minerals and process industries and the latest advances in CFD modelling techniques will be the focus of a three day conference being held December 9 -11 in Melbourne, Victoria.

The conference includes presentations by local and international researchers as well as industry representatives.
Source: CSIRO

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