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Optimization Studies of Hydrocyclone for Beneficiation
of Iron Ore Slimes
S. Mohanty
a
& B. Das
a
a
Institute of Minerals and Material Technology (CSIR) , Bhubaneswar, India
Published online: 12 Jan 2010.
To cite this article: S. Mohanty & B. Das (2010) Optimization Studies of Hydrocyclone for Beneficiation of Iron Ore Slimes,
Mineral Processing and Extractive Metallurgy Review: An International Journal, 31:2, 86-96, DOI: 10.1080/08827500903397142
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08827500903397142
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Mineral Processing & Extractive Metall. Rev., 31: 8696, 2010
Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 0882-7508 print/1547-7401 online
DOI: 10.1080/08827500903397142
OPTIMIZATION STUDIES OF HYDROCYCLONE
FOR BENEFICIATION OF IRON ORE SLIMES
S. Mohanty and B. Das
Institute of Minerals and Material Technology (CSIR), Bhubaneswar, India
Hydrocyclone is a key unit operation in mineral-processing industry for beneciation of
mineral values that uses centrifugal force to separate materials by density or size. The
optimization of different operating parameters of hydrocyclone is gaining importance to
achieve the best performance. In the present investigation, an attempt has been made
to develop statistical models using design of experiment technique and optimize the
model parameters using the NelderMead multidimensional pattern search technique
to obtain a product of desired grade and recovery. Hydrocyclone parameters such as
spigot diameter (mm), vortex nder diameter (mm), solids consistency (%), pressure
(psi), and dispersant (gms/kg) are optimized to recover iron values from iron ore slime
generated at iron ore washing plant. Addition of dispersant signicantly improved the
separation efciency. The maximum iron grade and recovery predicted by the model
is 65.0% and 60%, respectively, for a iron ore slime sample containing 57.84Fe, 6.0%
Al
2
O
3
, and 6.7% of SiO
2
.
Keywords: design of experiment, hydrocyclone, iron ore slimes, optimization, statistical analysis
INTRODUCTION
Fine particles generally coat on the mineral particles and pose difculties
in subsequent separation techniques. It has been stated that in otation method
slime coating retards the collector adsorption into the desired mineral species.
Even in gravity and magnetic separation techniques, they are not desired due to
poor performance. Therefore, desliming of extremely ne particles is being carried
out prior to any separation techniques. These slimes are being removed either by
vigorous agitation or by using suitable classication techniques. Hydrocyclone as a
classier has found wide applications in mineral industry for separation of coarse
and ne particles. Almost all the mineral industries in the world of today have
adopted hydrocyclone for size classication. Depending on the characteristics of the
feed particle size, it can separate different sizes of particles by varying the operating
and design parameters. The advantages of this classier are mechanical simplicity,
high throughput, less oor space, and low capital cost in comparison to mechanical
classiers. An important aspect of a hydrocyclone is the stabilization of the cut
point (J
50
), with varying solid concentrations and particle size compositions. The cut
Address correspondence to S. Mohanty, Institute of Minerals and Material Technology (CSIR),
Bhubaneswar 751 013, India. E-mail: swati.mohanty@gmail.com
86
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HYDROCYCLONE FOR BENEFICIATION OF IRON ORE SLIMES 87
point of hydrocyclone mostly depends on operating variables such as vortex nder
diameter, spigot diameter, operating pressure, solids concentration, throughput, and
so on.
The understanding of the operating variables that inuence hydrocyclone
performance is of increasing interest for the iron ore washing plants of India, where
it is widely used to deslime ore particles. This desliming operation in washing plants,
often carried out to recover some coarse and ne materials, poses an important
technical challenge. Recovery of enriched iron particles for iron and steel use is
not achieved in cyclone underow fraction due to some operational problems.
During the process of washing of iron ore, around 10 million tons of ultra nes
iron particles containing 48%60%Fe are being generated every year in India and
discarded as tailings. The characteristics of iron ore slimes are such that the gangue
materials such as silica and alumina are preferentially accumulated in the ner
fractions. On the basis of the characteristics of the sample, some laboratory studies
on iron ore slime samples were carried out in hydrocyclone to recover iron values
in the underow stream (Das et al. 1992; Das, Ansari, and Mishra 1993; Srivastava
et al. 2001).
Design of experiment technique is being widely used for optimization of
operating parameters (Montgomery 1997; Myers and Montgomery 2002). By this
technique, any interaction between the variables can be determined unlike in the
case where one variable is changed at a time. Lynch and Rao (1968) have developed
empirical models to estimate the water ow distribution, J
50
, composition of the
product from the vortex and the spigot. The variables taken into consideration
were vortex nder diameter, spigot diameter, feed pressure, and solids content.
The experimental data used for the development of the models were obtained
by varying one parameter at a time for silica and copper ore. However, by this
method the true interaction between the variables cannot be obtained (Anderson
and Whitcomp 1996). Empirical models for estimating separation size, ow split,
pressure drop, and sharpness of separation have been reported by Plitt (1976) for
silicawater slurry. He has carried out full-factorial design experiments with cyclone
diameter, inlet diameter, vortex nder diameter, apex diameter, free vortex height,
feed pressure, and slurry solids content as variables. The design and optimization
studies for hydrocyclones have also been carried out using computational uid
dynamics (CFD) modeling and genetic algorithm (Karr et al. 2000; Udaya Bhaskar
et al. 2001). Using the CFD simulation, the ow prole of the system can be studied
which can help in designing a system with a desired ow prole. In the present
study, the experiments were carried out as per two-level full factorial design with
center points and additional points, with an objective to maximize the grade and
recovery of iron. Empirical models based on statistical analysis were obtained to
predict the grade and recovery in 50-mm diameter hydrocyclone and were used for
parameter optimization.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
A representative iron ore slime sample was collected from the iron ore washing
plants and brought to the laboratory for the detailed investigation studies. The
chemical composition of the iron ore slimes indicates that the sample on an average
contained 57.84%Fe, 6.7% SiO
2
, and 6.0% of Al
2
O
3
, 4.0% loss on ignition, and
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88 S. MOHANTY AND B. DAS
Table 1 Size analysis and distribution of iron
in as received sample
Size, Weight, Fe, Fe Dist,
m % % %
100 to 75 1.0 60.3 1.04
75 to 45 2.3 66.5 2.63
45 to 30 2.3 64.5 2.56
30 to 20 3.1 62.0 3.32
20 91.3 57.5 90.45
Head 100 58.04 100
0.11% P
2
O
5
. The other constituents such as CaO, MgO, Na
2
O, and K
2
O were
present in small entities. The size analysis of the as received sample was carried
out by using different standard sieves down to 20 m. The size analysis of the as
received sample is shown in Table 1. The sample is extremely ne in size as more
than 90% material is less than 20 m size. It is observed that better quality iron nes
are present between the size ranges of 45 and 20 m. Since less iron is accumulated
in the ner fractions, centrifugal action involving hydrocyclone was used to enrich
the iron values present in the slime.
HYDROCYCLONE STUDIES
Hydrocyclone studies were carried out for the beneciation of iron values
through desliming of ultrane particles present in the sample. Since the sample
contained a lot of slime materials down to submicrometer size, desliming was
thought for possible upgradation of the iron values. Standard hydrocyclone
kit, of 50 mm diameter supplied by M/s Richards Mozeley (UK) was used
for hydrocyclone studies. The effect of the variables namely spigot diameter,
diameter of vortex nder, pressure, solids concentration, dispersant, and so on,
were studied.
Although attempts were made to conduct all the hydrocyclone experiments as
per full two-level factorial design with few center points, there was slight deviation
from the designed values for some parameters, as it was difcult to maintain the
parameters at the designed conditions. Additional experiments were also carried
out for better understanding of the system. The spigot diameter used for the
study was 3, 5, and 6.5mm, whereas the pressure was varied from 10 to 30psi.
The vortex nder diameters studied were 8, 11, and 14.3mm. The throughput
of hydrocyclone during the experiments was around 140780kg/h solids. The
throughput mostly depends on the solid concentration and applied pressure. Sodium
hexametaphosphate (SHMP) was used as the dispersant. It was varied from 0 to
2gms/kg of solids. The solid concentration of 9%24% by weight was used during
the experiments. The underow and overow materials were collected at a steady
state for a xed time, dried, weighed, and analyzed for the desired iron and other
constituents.
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HYDROCYCLONE FOR BENEFICIATION OF IRON ORE SLIMES 89
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Experimental Results with Hydrocyclone
The experiments were carried out using 50mm diameter hydrocyclone to get
the suitable iron value for pellet feed. It has been observed that both vortex nder
diameter and spigot diameter have inuence on the quality of underow product.
It was possible to achieve 64.2%Fe with 37.9% of iron recovery at 14.3mm vortex
nder and 3.0mm spigot diameter. By increasing the spigot diameter to 5.0mm,
the recovery of iron was enhanced to 47% but at a lesser iron grade of 63.1%Fe. The
experiments conducted with 11.0 and 8.0mm vortex nder diameter with varying
spigot diameters and pressures resulted in more materials going into the underow
compared to 14.3mm vortex nder diameter but with lower grade of iron. Under
the conditions of 8.0mm vortex nder diameter and 6.5mm spigot diameter, it was
possible to achieve 77%79% yield in underow but the grade of iron was hardly
59.8%Fe from the initial feed of 57.8%Fe. Experiments conducted using SHMP as
the dispersant resulted in better grade and yield. The iron concentrate of 63.86%Fe
with 45.4% recovery was obtainable by using a small quantity of dispersant. The
results obtained with higher vortex nder and spigot diameter indicated that iron
nes with 63.7%Fe at 52.4% recovery could be obtained. In most of the cases,
pressure had very marginal effect on both grade and recovery of iron.
The separation of ne particles can be visualized by plotting a efciency curve
of both the underow and overow fractions of the hydrocyclone stream. The key
to success in obtaining the desired iron grade lies in establishing the correct cut point
(J
50
) of the hydrocyclone through manipulation of design and operating parameters.
As most of the silica and alumina particles in Indian iron slimes are accumulated in
the ner sizes, it is desirable to separate them by the use of a suitable dispersant in
hydrocyclone. It is interesting to note that in most of the experiments, the overow
materials are less than 10 m size, indicating the nest materials being classied
by the hydrocyclone technique. The efciency curve of the hydrocyclone studies
with and without dispersant as evidenced from the size analysis data is shown in
Figure 1 for a vortex nder diameter: 14.3mm, spigot diameter: 3.0mm, pressure:
25psi, dispersant dosage: 1gms/kg, and feed solids %: 11.6.
The J
50
(corrected) of the experiments with and without dispersant are 9 and
14 m, respectively. Separation of ne particles is hindered as they agglomerate with
coarser particles and ow out as underow. With the addition of the dispersant, the
ne particles remain dispersed and are carried out as overow, thereby increasing
the J
50
size. Studies on deviation of the efciency curve from the ideal S-curve due
to the inuence of ne particles have been carried out by Kawatra and Eisele (2006).
Statistical Analysis
To nd the maximum grade and recovery possible, statistical data analysis
of the experimental data was done and models developed for optimization of the
parameters. The ranges of the various variables studied are shown in Table 2. A
total of 74 experiments that included replicates of ve experiments were used to
obtain empirical models for grade and recovery of iron in the underow. In the
present investigation, empirical models based on statistical analysis were developed
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90 S. MOHANTY AND B. DAS
Figure 1 Corrected efciency curves for iron ore slimes. Vortex nder diameter = 14.3mm, spigot
diameter = 3.0mm, pressure = 25psi, dispersant = 1gms/kg, and feed solids % = 11.6.
both for grade and recovery and were used for optimizing the variables so as to
obtain the desired grade and recovery.
Commercial package, Design Expert, was used for the present study. The
analysis of variance (ANOVA) for grade is shown in Table 3. The sum of squares
for the model is calculated using the following equation:
Model sum of squares =
n

i=1
,
2
i

n
i=1
,
i

2
n
(1)
where ,
i
is the model prediction for the ith observation and n is the number of
observations. The residual sum of squares is calculated using the following equation:
Residual sum of squares =
n

i=1
(x
i
,
i
)
2
(2)
where x
i
is the experimental value for the ith observation. The sum of squares for
each term in the model is the difference between the residual sum of squares of the
model and the residual sum of squares of the model with the term excluded. The
E-test for the model indicates the level of signicance of the model prediction and
Table 2 The upper and lower limit of the variables
Factors Variable Low High
A Spigot diameter, mm 3 6.5
B Vortex nder diameter, mm 8 14.3
C Pressure, psi 10 30
D Dispersant, gm/kg 0 2
E Feed solids, % 10 27.12
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HYDROCYCLONE FOR BENEFICIATION OF IRON ORE SLIMES 91
Table 3 ANOVA for grade of iron
Sum of Degrees of Mean E
Source squares freedom square value Prob > E
Model 127.63 6 21.27 41.96 -0.0001 Signicant
Residual 33.97 67 0.5070
Lack of t 24.88 63 0.3949 0.1737 0.9995 Not signicant
Pure error 9.10 4 2.27
the E-test for lack-of-t indicates the level of signicance of the model predicted
data not tting the observed data. For the model, the E-value is calculated using
the equation given below
E-test =
Estimate of model variance
Estimate of residual variance
(3)
and for the lack-of-t, E-value is dened as
E-test =
Estimate of residual-corrected-for-pure-error variance
Estimate of pure error variance
(4)
It was seen that the main effects, i.e., vortex nder diameter and dispersant are more
signicant compared to spigot diameter. Pressure did not seem to have signicant
effect and hence has been neglected. The quadratic effect of the spigot diameter was
more signicant than the vortex nder diameter. The interaction between the spigot
diameter and the dispersant was also found to be signicant.
The model equation obtained by regression analysis can therefore be written as
Fe grade% = 65.65069 1.82754 spigot diameter 0.11487
vortex nder diameter 2.60073 dispersant
+0.13419 spigot diameter
2
+0.019243
vortex nder diameter
2
+0.7392
spigot diameter dispersant (5)
The E-value of 41.95 at >99.99% condence level shows that the model is
signicant. The E-value of 0.17 at 99.95% condence level for lack-of-t implies that
there is no signicant lack of t compared to pure error. The comparison between
the experimental and estimated grade is shown in Figure 2.
The R
2
of 0.789 shows that the t is quite good. It should also be noted that
the error is not primarily due to the model but due to experimental error or noise,
since the lack-of-t shows that it is not signicant.
Similar analysis was carried out for recovery of iron values. The ANOVA
for recovery is shown in Table 4. The main effects, spigot diameter, vortex nder
diameter, pressure, dispersant, solid percent as well as square of dispersant and
interaction of spigot diameter, and vortex nder diameter have most signicant
effect on the recovery. The square of spigot diameter as well as two-parameter
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92 S. MOHANTY AND B. DAS
Figure 2 Comparison of experimental and predicted grade.
interaction of spigot diameter and solid percent, vortex nder diameter and pressure,
and dispersant and solid percent were less signicant. Three and higher parameter
interaction were not signicant and hence have been excluded. The E-value of 76.83
for the model implies that the model is signicant at >99.99% condence level. The
E-value of 15.07 for lack-of-t at 0.83% condence level implies that the lack-of-t
is quite signicant. This implies that the error in prediction is primarily due to the
model compared to experimental error or noise. The model equation obtained by
regression analysis can therefore be written as
Fe recovery % = 39.17641 +11.89891 spigot diameter 0.16651
vortex nder diameter +0.325334 pressure
+13.08777 dispersant 0.76444 feed solids
0.04704 spigot diameter
2
7.40765 dispersant
2
Table 4 The ANOVA for recovery of iron
Sum of Degrees of Mean E
Source squares freedom square value Prob > E
Model 10603.6 11 963.964 76.83 -0.0001 Signicant
Residual 777.93 62 12.55
Lack of t 774.39 58 13.35 15.07 0.0083 Signicant
Pure error 3.55 4 0.8863
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HYDROCYCLONE FOR BENEFICIATION OF IRON ORE SLIMES 93
0.58395 spigot diameter vortex nder diameter
0.00017 spigot diameter feed slidos
0.01044 vortex nder diameter pressure
0.17443 dispersant feed solid (6)
Figure 3 shows a comparison between the experimental and estimated
recovery. The R
2
value of 0.9316 implies that the model t is very good. The normal
plots of the difference between the observed and predicted values of grade and
recovery, i.e., the residuals are shown in the Figures 4 and 5, respectively. For a
good model, the residual should be normally distributed, i.e., the points should lie
on a straight line. Hence, it can be seen that the errors for both recovery and grade
are well distributed.
The models were then used to get the best set of design and operating
parameters so as to maximize grade and recovery. Since the recovery decreases
with an increase in grade, the minimum acceptable grade and recovery were xed
along with other criteria for optimization as shown in Table 5. Optimization of the
process parameters were carried out using built-in optimizer of Design Expert, that
uses NelderMead multidimensional pattern search technique. The ten best possible
optimal solutions are shown in Table 6. From Table 6, it can be seen that maximum
grade of 65.44% can be obtained at 55% recovery and maximum recovery of 56.41%
can be obtained with a grade of 64.32% by varying various design and process
parameters.
Figure 3 Comparison of experimental and predicted recovery.
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94 S. MOHANTY AND B. DAS
Figure 4 Normal plot of residuals for grade.
Figure 5 Normal plot of residuals for recovery.
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HYDROCYCLONE FOR BENEFICIATION OF IRON ORE SLIMES 95
Table 5 Criteria for parameter optimization of the hydrocyclone
Parameter Minimum Maximum
Spigot diameter, mm 3 6.5
Vortex nder diameter, mm 8 14.3
Pressure, psi 10 25
Dispersant, g/kg 0 2
Feed solids, % 10 25
Fe grade underow, % 60
Fe recovery underow, % 50
Table 6 Iron grade and recovery under the best optimizing conditions
Spigot Vortex nder Feed Fe-grade Fe recovery
diameter, diameter, Pressure, Dispersant, solids, underow, underow,
Number mm mm psi gm/kg % % %
1 6.50 12.58 25.00 2.00 10.01 65.44 55.00
2 6.50 12.51 24.89 2.00 10.18 65.42 55.02
3 6.50 12.37 20.88 2.00 10.00 65.37 55.03
4 6.50 11.98 12.78 2.00 10.00 65.23 55.00
5 6.50 11.78 18.39 2.00 11.79 65.16 55.00
6 6.50 11.65 12.57 2.00 11.27 65.11 55.00
7 6.50 11.50 25.00 2.00 10.00 65.07 59.48
8 6.49 10.97 25.00 1.83 18.85 64.52 54.94
9 6.50 14.23 10.19 1.23 10.00 64.43 55.00
10 6.50 8.77 10.00 2.00 19.96 64.32 56.41
CONCLUSIONS
Iron values from iron ore slimes can be recovered by manipulating the design
and operating variables of the hydrocyclone with proper choice of dispersant. From
the statistical data analysis, it is seen that the effect of spigot diameter, vortex nder
diameter, and the interaction of spigot diameter and dispersant play signicant
role on the grade of iron. The model equation obtained by regression analysis
for grade of iron is signicant at >99.99% condence level. For the recovery of
iron, the effect of spigot diameter, vortex nder diameter, pressure, dispersant,
solid percent, square of dispersant, and interaction of spigot and vortex nder
diameter are most signicant. The equation obtained for recovery of iron by
regression analysis was signicant at 99.99% condence level. The comparison of
experimental and estimated grade and recovery of iron by the model equations are
quite good. Under optimal conditions predicted by the model, an iron recovery
of 59.5% can be obtained with 65.07% grade of iron. The values for the variables
predicted by the model are 11.50mm for vortex nder diameter, 25psi for pressure,
2gms/kg of dispersant, and 10% solids concentration. It will, therefore, be possible
to obtain around 65% Fe with around 60% recovery by using these combinations in
hydrocyclone for iron ore slimes being generated at Indian iron ore mines.
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96 S. MOHANTY AND B. DAS
ACKNOWLEDGMENT
The authors are thankful to Director, Institute of Minerals and Materials
Technology, Bhubaneswar for his kind permission to publish this paper.
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