There are a number of laboratory techniques traditionally used in the characterisation of sludges for the prediction of the efficient operation of dewatering processes such as centrifugation and filtration. In industry, capillary suction time and specific resistance to filtration measurements are common. Whilst useful in predicting trends, they do not assist in the design and optimisation of devices from first principles.

Recent work in our laboratories has developed a technique for the fast measurement of the permeability and compressibility of sludge. This information, when coupled with first-principle models is useful for the prediction of the performance of solid-liquid separation devices. The work has shown that a single volume fraction dependent parameter, namely the solids diffusivity, calculated from permeability and compressibility, is able to fully characterise the dewaterability of sludge. This allows different sludges to be compared in an unequivocal fashion.

Data will be presented for a range of sludges from different sources showing vastly different dewatering properties. The dewaterability of the different sludges is easily compared and the true role of flocculants in dewatering is highlighted.

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