Dissolved air flotation (DAF) of iron hydroxide precipitates at working pressures lower than 3 atm, using modified flotation units to improve the collection of fragile coagula, was studied. Conventional DAF flotation was studied as a function of saturation pressure in the absence and presence of surfactants in the saturator. Without surfactants, the minimum saturation pressure required for DAF to occur was found to be 3 atm. But, by lowering the air/water surface tension in the saturator, DAF was possible at a saturation pressure of 2 atm. This behavior was found to occur in both batch and pilot DAF operation tests and almost complete recovery of the precipitates was attained. Results are explained in terms of the minimum “energy” which has to be transferred to the liquid phase to form bubbles by a cavity phenomenon. Further, studies were conducted changing equipment design and feed bubbles size distribution (mixing micro and “mid-sized” bubbles). Thus, bubbles entrance position in the collision-adhesion zone (“capture” zone) was compared to bubble entrance position in the water flow inlet below the floating bed. A “mushroom” type diffuser was used for the “capture zone” experiment and better performance was obtained. Results are explained in terms of different mass transfer phenomena in the collection zone and in the separation zone. Finally, results obtained with the use of a column flotation cell working as normal DAF and with a wide bubble size range are presented. Results indicate good performance and some gains in process kinetics with middle size bubbles.

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