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Title: Elucidation of flocculation growth kinetics using a microfluidic approach
Author: Pallipurath Radhakrishnan, A. N.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7660 0336
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2016
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The inter-disciplinary work in this thesis entails the development of a microfluidic device with bespoke imaging methodology to study flocculation growth kinetics dynamically in real-time. Flocculation is an advantageous downstream operation that increases the product-separation efficiency by selectively removing impurities. Yet, there is no unifying model defining the effect of different physico-chemical parameters on the rates of flocculation. Conventional setups for said analyses require large experimental space that are tedious to perform, and are limited by their dependence on end-point analysis, requiring sample-handling and further dispersion into typical particle-sizing instruments. In spite of the counter-intuitiveness of implementing microfluidics to study flocculation due to the anticipated channel-clogging issue, it is hypothesised that the growth kinetics can be measured by achieving a continuous, steady-state flocculation under a lower-shear environment. Flocculation within a spiral microfluidic device (~151.8 µl volume) is evaluated against a bench-scale setup (~50 ml volume) through the comparison of floc size and zeta potential. The fluid hydrodynamics in the microchannel is assessed by an experimental mixing-time analysis (tmix = 7.5 s) and a residence time distribution study (tm = ca. 70 s). In situ measurement of floc size and morphology is facilitated through high-speed imaging, with an image-processing script for robust analysis. Different flocculants are tested and growth rates calculated (~ 8 and ~12 µm s-1 for PEI and pDADMAC). Flocs grew linearly up to 250 µm for cationic polymers, while no growth was observed with a non-ionic PEG. Using an improved parameter-fitting step, the growth rates are compared to a simplified model for monodisperse perikinetic flocculation. The work presented should thus, enable an experimental estimation of flocculation growth kinetics and pave way for the development of accurate flocculation models for polydisperse particles. The developed system also facilitates a rapid screening of new flocculants useful for quicker process development.
Supervisor: Bracewell, D. G. ; Szita, N. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available