Cenospheres recovery is one of the coal fly ash beneficiations, providing economic as well as environmental benefits. Current techniques, such as lagoon or other wet-separation processes, consume large amounts of water and add to water pollution due to leaching of toxic materials from fly ash. The other possible disadvantage is the need for a wide operational area, which is unsuitable for densely populated countries. As wet-separation processes have some disadvantages, an improved and/or sustainable alternative recovery technique is required. An air classifier is one of the alternative techniques. In this study, two types of air classifiers, namely a closed-type pneumatic separator and a micron separator, have been investigated. In terms of separation efficiency, it was found that the micron separator has the potential to be applied in cenospheres recovery from coal fly ash, giving a Newton's efficiency of 0.44, as compared to a value of about 0.26 for the closed-type pneumatic separator. The cenospheres recoveries of both pieces of equipment at their optimum Newton's efficiencies were similar at over 60 wt.%. The separation performance was further assessed from the particle distributions of the overflow and underflow products obtained from both pieces of equipment, as well as from SEM images. It was found that the lower Newton's efficiency of the closed-type pneumatic separator was due to the re-concentration of fine particles in the underflow product at air-flow rates higher than 2.2 m/s (the underflow product yield was about 55 wt.%). In order to further confirm the applicability of this technique, the micron separator, which had provided higher separation efficiency and cenospheres recovery, was deployed in a cenospheres recovery unit prior to the use of a wet-separation process (float and sink tank). About 80% of the cenospheres was recovered, with an 87.8% reduction in the total mass of fly ash to be separated in the float and sink tank. Consequently, much less water was needed for the process of cenospheres recovery. Moreover, it was also confirmed that the micron separator could yield higher quality fly ashes, that is, fly ash types I and II, from lower feed quality of fly ash type IV, which is the lowest category in commercial classification of fly ash according to JIS A6201.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
- Geochemistry and Petrology