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Coagulation- flocculation is a chemical water treatment technique that are used to separate the
suspended solids portion from the water. (2)
All waters contain dissolved, colloidal and suspended solid particles. Suspended solids have a

diameter larger than 10 m, colloidal solids between 10 m and 10 m and dissolved


solids smaller than 10 m .These suspended materials mostly arise from land erosion, the
dissolution of minerals and the decay of vegetation and from several domestic and industrial
waste discharges. Such material may include suspended, dissolved organic and/or inorganic
matter, as well as several biological organisms, such as bacteria, algae or viruses. This material
has to be removed, as it causes deterioration of water quality by reducing the clarity (e.g.
causing turbidity or colour), and eventually carrying pathogenic organisms or toxic compounds,
adsorbed on their surfaces.
Particles with a diameter larger than 10-5 m, and a specific density larger than 2,000 kg/m3 will
settle in water. Smaller particles will also settle, but more slowly. (Considered nonsettleable). To
be removed, particles that are smaller than 10-5 m must be made larger or heavier. Therefore,
removal is only possible by increasing the particle size. (1)

The suspended particles vary considerably in source, composition charge, particle size, shape,
and density. Correct application of coagulation and flocculation processes depend upon
understanding the interaction between these particle properties. The small particles are stabilized

(kept in suspension) by the action of physical forces on the particles themselves. One of the
forces playing a dominant role in stabilization results from the surface charge present on the
particles. Most solids suspended in water possess a negative charge and, since they have the same
type of surface charge, repel each other when they come close together. Therefore, they will
remain in suspension rather than clump together and settle out of the water. (2)
Coagulation and flocculation occur in successive steps intended to overcome the forces
stabilizing the suspended particles, allowing particle collision and growth of floc. If step one is
incomplete, the following step will be unsuccessful.
The first step destabilizes the particles charges. The coagulation process is the dosing of a
coagulant in water, resulting in the destabilization of negatively charged particles. Following the
first step of coagulation, a second process called flocculation occurs. Flocculation is a physical
process of slowly mixing the coagulated water to increase the probability of particle collision. (2)

Coagulants with charges opposite those of the suspended solids are added to the water to
neutralize the negative charges on dispersed nonsettlable solids such as clay and color-producing
organic substances. Once the charge is neutralized, the small suspended particles are capable of
sticking together. The slightly larger particles, formed through this process and called microflocs,
are not visible to the naked eye. The water surrounding the newly formed microflocs should be
clear. If it is not, all the particles charges have not been neutralized, and coagulation has not been
carried to completion. More coagulant may need to be added. A high-energy, rapid-mix to
properly disperse the coagulant and promote particle collisions is needed to achieve good
coagulation. Over-mixing does not affect coagulation, but insufficient mixing will leave this step
incomplete. Coagulants should be added where sufficient mixing will occur. (2)

Coagulation results from adding salts of iron, aluminum or cationic polymer to the water. Some
common coagulants include:
Aluminum sulfate/ Alum

Al2(SO4)3 14 to 18 H2O

Sodium aluminate


Ferric sulfate

Fe2 (SO4 )3 9 H2O

Ferric chloride


Aluminum chloride

AlCl3 6 H2O

There are a number of factors that influence the coagulation process. Four of the most important
are pH, turbidity, temperature and alkalinity. The degree to which these factors influence
coagulation depends upon the type of coagulant used. When metal salts are used as the primary
coagulant, these factors can have a significant affect on the performance of the chemical in
removing contaminants. The performance of cationic polymers, however, is less influenced by
these factors. (4)
Alkalinity: a measure of waters ability to neutralize an acid.
Inorganic Coagulants:
Inorganic coagulants such as aluminium and iron salts are the most commonly used. When added
to the water, they furnish highly charged ions to neutralize the suspended particles. The inorganic
hydroxides formed produce short polymer chains which enhance microfloc formation. Inorganic
coagulants usually offer the lowest price per pound, are widely available, and, when properly
applied, are quite effective in removing most suspended solids. They produce large volumes of
floc which can entrap bacteria as they settle. However, they may alter the pH of the water since
they consume alkalinity. They require corrosion-resistant storage and feed equipment. Common
coagulant chemicals used are alum, ferric sulfate, ferric chloride, ferrous sulfate, and sodium
aluminate. The first four will lower the alkalinity and pH of the solution while the sodium
aluminate will add alkalinity and raise the pH. (2)

Polymers--long-chained, high-molecular-weight, organic chemicals--are becoming more widely
used, especially as coagulant aids together with the regular inorganic coagulants.(2)
A polymer that has ionized sites along its length is called a polyelectrolyte. As they are
commonly called, can be used as a primary coagulant or as an aid to coagulation when metal salts
are used.(4)
Polymers may be classifies as follow:

anionic-ionize in water solution to form negatively charged sites along the polymer chain

cationic-ionize in water solution to form positively charged sites along the polymer chain

nonionic-ionize in water solution to form very slight negatively charged sites along the
polymer chain (3)

Anionic (negatively charged) polymers are often used with metal coagulants.
Low-to-medium weight, positively charged (cationic) polymers may be used alone or in
combination with the aluminium and iron type coagulants to attract the suspended solids and
neutralize their surface charge. The cationic polyelectrolytes is commonly used as primary
coagulants. (2)
The use of organic polymers offers several advantages over the use of inorganic coagulants:

The amount of sludge produced during clarification can be reduced by 50-90%.

The resulting sludge contains less chemically bound water and can be more easily

Polymeric coagulants do not affect pH. (Therefore, the need for supplemental alkalinity,
such as lime, caustic, or soda ash, is reduced or eliminated.)

Soluble iron or aluminum carryover in the clarifier effluent may result from inorganic
coagulant use. Therefore, elimination of the inorganic coagulant can minimize the
deposition of these metals in filters, ion exchange units, and cooling systems.

Polymeric coagulants do not add to the total dissolved solids concentration. For example,
1 ppm of alum adds 0.45 ppm of sulfate ion (expressed as CaCO3). The reduction in
sulfate can significantly extend the capacity of anion exchange systems.

But, Polymers are generally several times more expensive in their price per pound than
inorganic coagulants. (3)
Flash Mixing/Rapid Mixing:
Rapid mixing after coagulant dosing is an important design parameter. Effective dispersion of the
coagulant into the raw water stream ensures efficient and effective treatment. Flash mixing is
very important when metal salts are used. Metal salts must be thoroughly dispersed into the
stream within 1-2 seconds for effective treatment. The performance of polymers, on the other
hand, is less influenced by flash mixing energy and is minimally affected by dispersion times as
long as several seconds.
Pump diffusion (is a type of mechanical mixing) and incline static mixers are the most common
types of flash mixers:

The pump diffusion system uses jets to inject the coagulant into the raw water stream.
The advantage of a pump diffusion flash mixer is that is produces no additional headloss.
The disadvantages are the additional electrical power consumption and added

In all the static mixers, gravity forces cause the mixing effect. Inline static mixers are
very simple devices that can be used to provide deflective mixing as well. The advantages
of the incline static mixer are that it requires no electrical power and very little
maintenance. The disadvantages are that mixing efficiency varies with flow rate and that
headloss can be on the order of two feet or more. (4)

Detention Time:

Appropriate detention times are required for the coagulation process to proceed to completion
before the water is filtered or additional chemical are added. The mixing energy that should be
used during the reaction period depends of the type of water treatment process that is being used
and the type of coagulant. Detention times on the order of 10-20 minutes are common. (4)
Flocculation, a gentle mixing stage, increases the particle size from submicroscopic microfloc to
visible suspended particles. The microflocs are brought into contact with each other through the
process of slow mixing. Collisions of the microfloc particles cause them to bond to produce
larger, visible flocs called pinflocs. The floc size continues to build through additional collisions
and interaction with inorganic polymers formed by the coagulant or with organic polymers added.
Macroflocs are formed. High molecular weight polymers (anionic), called coagulant aids, may be
added during this step to help bridge, bind, and strengthen the floc, add weight, and increase
settling rate. The optimum dosage of the anionic polymer is directly related to the amount of
coagulated material that is present in the water. Once the floc has reached it optimum size and
strength, the water is ready for the sedimentation process. (2)
Mixing Energy:
The two most common types of mixers that are used for flocculation include baffled channels and
paddles. In some cases, pipelines are also used to provide flocculation.

Baffled channel mixers rely on hydraulics to provide the necessary flocculation (mixing)
energy. Flocculation energy in baffled channel mixers varies with changes in water flow

rate or temperature.
Paddle mixers provide the greatest level of operational control. The speed of the paddles
can be changed to compensate for changes in water temperature, turbidity, or flow rate.

The type of floc that is formed depends on the type of chemicals that are used and the mixing
energy that is provided. Higher mixing energies form smaller denser floc that is ideal for filtering.
In contrast,lower mixing energies form larger and heavier floc that is ideal for settling. (4)
Detention Time (Resistance Time):

The flocculation process requires 15 to 45 minutes of mixing. The time is based on the chemistry
of the water, the water temperature, and the mixing intensity. The temperature is the key
component in determining the amount of time required for good floc formation. (4)


The coagulation process can be researched by executing jar tests. In this test the coagulation and
floc formation process is simulated.(1) The most common is composed of six mixers connected
together and six one-liter beakers. Samples of water, along with various dosages of the coagulant,
are added to the jars. (4) After rapid mixing, a slow stirring and a settling phase, the water
turbidity is measured. By modifying the process conditions: dosage, pH, flocculation time,
settling time, stirring energy for mixing and/or flocculation), the optimal conditions can be
determined. (1)
Proper timing between the addition of the coagulant and flocculant is very important when
anionic polymers are used. Adding the flocculant at the point when a pin floc is formed can
produce remarkable results. Adding the flocculant too early or too late will reduce its
effectiveness. Determining the proper dosage and timing is mainly a visual test, but instruments
such a turbidimeter can be used to aid the process. The addition of too little polymer will not
adequately remove the turbidity from the settled water. The addition of too much polymer will
result in flocculated material settling in the jars, even as the jar stirrer paddles continue to rotate.
Other types of devices are also available to indicate optimum coagulation and to control the
coagulation process automatically. A coagulant charge analyser can be used for bench testing, or
streaming current detector can be used for online measurement and control. Both devices use the
net charge density of the water to indicate when optimum coagulation has been achieved. In other
worlds, these instruments are used to measure when enough positively charged coagulant has
been added to neutralize the negative surface charges of the contaminants. (4)