Flocculation is an essential stage in many production processes as well as in the treatment of their effluents. Despite extensive research over the years, its use at the industrial level is still mostly based on a trial and error approach involving screening of polymers in pilot trials. This is mainly due to the high number of variables influencing this process.
The increasing concern with environmental issues is pushing research to an eco-friendly approach to the development of new flocculants either naturally existing, based on natural by-products, or alternatively, produced through oil-free processes. Additionally, the selection of a flocculant is often based not on the cost of the chemical but on the downstream expenses to transport and treat the residue. Such an optimization requires public-private collaborations where real effluent is characterized and the treatment developed specifically.
The development of new flocculation aids requires the evaluation of their performance in the process, and the best way to deal with this is to follow a product performance approach, establishing a map of product performance versus flocculant characteristics. This requires identifying which flocs characteristics influence most their performance in each process.
Two main research themes can be identified:
- Synthesis of novel, less environmentally burdensome, flocculants either by using natural raw materials, such as those based on wood wates or using oil/solvent free synthesis.
-Prediction and optimization of flocculants performance, identifying the most important process parameters and flocculants characteristics determining flocs properties, in order to better screen the right flocculant for each process.
The project is aimed at developing two ESRs PhD jointly supervised by academia and an innovative SME, benefiting from a highly entrepreneurial environment. Targeted industries include paper and tissue, steel, food processing, chemical, pharmaceutical, oil refining, etc.
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