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Innovative technologies and concepts for fine particle flotation: unlocking future fine-grained deposits and Critical Raw Materials resources for the EU

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FineFuture (Innovative technologies and concepts for fine particle flotation: unlocking future fine-grained deposits and Critical Raw Materials resources for the EU)

Reporting period: 2019-06-01 to 2020-11-30

The overall aim of the Horizon 2020 project FineFuture is to create new scientific knowledge to enable the development of ground-breaking technologies to exploit the fine particle fractions within and outside of Europe. Ambition of the project is to successfully recover fine particle systems and transfer the knowledge in new competitive technologies tested in lab and simulated environments.
The expected results will lead to (i) drastically reduced loss of resources, (ii) the utilisation of new resources and (iii) more competitiveness through much higher energy efficiencies.
FineFuture applies a transdisciplinary and first of its kind research approach that combines the expertise of colloid and interface science, fluid dynamics, physics, mineral processing, process engineering, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, computational science and advanced mathematics. The FineFuture project will develop ground-breaking concepts and technologies for the economic and environmental friendly separation of fine particle systems for beneficiation.
The FineFuture specific objectives are as follows:
1. Create a break-through concept, a large body of new knowledge and interface engineering solutions.
2. Provide a proof of concept and develop groundbreaking, cross-sectorial technological solutions for tomorrow’s innovations in the field of recovery of particles containing critical raw materials.
3. Tune model processes to achieve at least 20 % energy savings and at least 30 % water savings compared to existing technological solutions.
4. Evaluate and use the environmental performance, including water savings, through Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) with feedback mechanisms to guide the research work, implement measures to obtain the Social License to Operate and incorporate stakeholder knowledge from outside the network.
5. Provide open access to all FineFuture scientific results and feed the knowledge and data in the EU knowledge base including RMIS.
6. Investigate and apply latest digitalization concepts and strategies at all levels of the project ranging from new experimental methods, advanced computing, data management, business model thinking, innovation management, feedback collection, collaboration in distributed teams to state of the art communication and dissemination of the project results.
In WP1 an innovative methodology was developed to describe the interactions between depressants, collectors and minerals. An enhancement of flotation selectivity between calcium minerals was discovered. The use of non-ionic additives leads to a significant decrease of the main collector consumption. A new collector causing an electrostatic attraction between bubbles and silica-based particle as well as new equations for the kinetics of frother adsorption at critical coalescence concentration for static and rising bubbles were developed.
Based on the inconsistencies identified in existing particle-bubble collision frequency models a new calculation framework that leads to a simplified specific algebraic model was developed in WP2. Bubble break-up experiments in defined channel geometries were conducted in which the bubble break-up was. Particle-particle interaction and suspension rheology was modelled.
In WP3 different design and technologies have been developed for the generation of micro-bubbles. The flotation tests conducted with an air-in-water microdispersion generator showed that the addition of microbubbles is beneficial to the recovery of quartz particles coated with conventional bubbles. Three different pneumatic reactors have been built and analyzed with respect to the resulting pressure drop. The ultrasound tests showed a clear influence of the sonication on the sediment height.
In WP4 the foamability and foam stability of cationic and anionic collectors were compared to those of known frothers. It has been shown experimentally that the new collector Hexylamine generates an electrostatic attraction between the bubbles and the silica-based particles. Positron Emission Particle Tracking experiments have been performed. The stator-induced modifications of the hydrodynamics resulted in reduced particle velocities outside of the impeller-stator region.
In WP5 first the main achievement of the period is Deliverable 5.1 summarizing the results reached in the tests performed to determine reference data on the floatability of fine particles. Additionally, Milestone 5.1 was successfully reached, i.e. the decision on the pairing of innovative technologies with research facilities and material classes was taken.
In WP6 a modelling frame for the combination of the pulp model and froth model of the flotation process is provided, and the computational fluid dynamics simulation of the macroscopic flotation process was done enabling the simulation not only of complex flows for further optimization of the process but also to predict the flotation rates. The macroscopic theory of Hamaker constant calculation in Lifschitz approach revealed attractive hydrophobic interactions in the framework of van der Waals interactions. Enhanced population balance modelling capabilities were implemented and validated.
In WP7 relevant work to perform the Life Cycle Assessment studies on flotation and raw materials processing to capture the peculiarities of the examined sector was performed. Four case studies were identified covering different minerals, various sources and beneficiation process lines in order to take into account for wide-application of the innovative FineFuture technologies in the sustainability analysis.
The dissemination strategy (WP8) aims to use effective channels and platforms for all groups of potential users with long-term perspective. The communication strategy describes how the partners ensure the scope, tasks and deliverables to roll out into the implementation strategy in the timeframe of the project.
The coordination was performed as foreseen including clustering with other European projects, progress monitoring, risk management, and data management.
The 'ethics requirements' that the project must comply with were delivered.
The results in each task are mainly in line with the proposed outcomes so far. There are minor delays that are mostly caused by the pandemic.
Nevertheless, the FineFuture consortium initiated hyper projects, which aim to generate results beyond the proposed ones. These are interdisciplinary composed working groups detached from the work packages collaborating on: 1. Copper ore – 2. Magnesite – 3. Microbubbles – 4. Forth Zone Engineering – 5. From First Principles. We expect that from these hyper projects additional scientific insights as well as publications will be generated.
The societal-economic impact of the project is not yet fully assessable. However, the 1st Stakeholder Forum has proven that there is the potential to generate impact in the processing industry with innovative flotation technologies that are able to enhance the recovery of critical raw materials. And this, in turn, results in an impact on the society as a whole as it secures the access to indispensable raw materials needed for the European population. In particular, in times of a transformation of the European economy to climate-neutrality this topic is relevant for the entire society, and involves high socio-economic implications for each European citizen.
Three employed reactor types (a-c), resulting pressure loss (d) and bubble size (e) as a function of
Experiments with direct pulp injection into the froth. a) Setup 1 b) Setup 2 and c) mass fraction in
Images from the coalescence measurements in the presence of water and SDS at different concentration
Snapshot of the simulated froth phase with the froth phase CFD simulator
Mini-pilot pneumatic flotation with automation
Effect of triangulations parameters (N and f) and smoothing kernel (k) on the overall vertical veloc
Image sequence illustrating the bubble break up, due to a dumbbell like deformation of the bubble af
Contributions to conferences from FineFuture consortium