Pre-polymerised inorganic coagulants, such as polyaluminium chloride (PAC) have several advantages over conventional aluminium and iron salts. However, their mode of action is not fully understood and progress in this area has been made largely by empirical approaches. In this preliminary study we have followed the dynamics of flocculation of model clay/humic acid suspensions following the addition of three different coagulants: aluminium sulphate and two commercial PAC products. Experiments were conducted using controlled stirring rates in a modified jar test procedure, in which the formation and break-up of flocs could be monitored continuously by a flow-through optical technique. The results show significant differences in the behaviour of the coagulants and one of the PAC samples gives much larger and stronger flocs. Further experiments along these lines should help to elucidate the mode of action of different forms of coagulant and to aid in their selection for specific applications.

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