Hydrolyzing coagulants are extensively used in water and wastewater treatment, often under conditions where hydroxide precipitation is important, giving “sweep flocculation”. Pre-hydrolyzed coagulants, such as polyaluminium chloride (PACl) are also widely used and have several advantages over traditional additives, such as aluminium sulfate. Their action is usually discussed in terms of cationic species and charge neutralization. However, precipitation may also be important and this aspect has not been considered in detail. The present work has compared the action of alum and three commercial PACl products on model clay suspensions. The conventional jar test procedure has been used, along with measurements of settled floc volume and dynamic monitoring of floc formation and break-up by an optical technique. The latter method gives very useful information on the nature of the flocs produced and their response to different shear conditions. It is clear from the results that the PACl products form larger and stronger flocs than alum. With all coagulants floc breakage appears to be essentially irreversible. Sediment volumes are slightly lower for flocs produced by PACl than by alum, but the value is proportional to the dosage in all cases.

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