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Adsorptive Bubble Separation and Dispersed A ir Flotation 83

Fi* 1. A rising bubble in bubble separation column containing surface-active agent.

Fable I indicates the solids or substances that can be effectively separated by the
adsorptive bubble separation process. In general, the light-weight suspended solids,
such as fibers, activated sludge, free oil. chemical floes, and fats, can be readily sepa­
rated by the process in accordance with the physical-chemical bubble attachment mech­
anism shown in I ig. 1. The colloidal solids, soluble organics, soluble inorganics, and
surface-active substances can be separated from the bulk liquid by the bubble separa­
tion process after they are converted from colloidal or soluble form into insoluble form
(i.e., suspended solids), which can then be floated by gas bubbles.
Alternatively, an adsorptive bubble separation process in accordance with its surface-
adsorption phenomena, shown in Fig. I, can separate the soluble surface-active sub­
stances easily. Non-surlace-aclive suspended solids, colloidal solids, soluble organics,
and soluble inorganics can all be converted into surface-active substances. All surface-
active substances (in either soluble form or insoluble form) cun be effectively floated by
gas bubbles (75).
The volatile solids shown in Table 1 are simply stripped out from the water phase into
the gas phase (i.e., air) by bubbles according to Henry’s law.
In summation, the adsorptive bubble separation process, in theory, can remove or
separate almost any kind o f light-weight and/or surface-active substances from water.
Because there are various types of adsorptive bubble separation processes, selection of
an appropriate type for a specific application is an important skill (45.84).
84 Lawrence K. Wang

Table 2
Types of Flotation Processes
1. Plain gravity flotation
Example: API Oil-water separator
Wax water separator
2. Dissolved air flotation (DAF)
Example: Full flow pressurization system
Partial How pressurization system
Recycle flow pressurization system
Flow pattern: laminar flow. Fine air bubbles
Air Addition: 1% of liquid influent flow
3. Dispersed air flotation (or induced air flotation)
Example: Dcinking flotation
Foam separation
Gas stripping
Ore flotation
Flow pattern: Turbulent flow, large air bubbles
Air addition: 400% of liquid influent flow
4. Vaccum flotation
Example: Scum vacuum flotation
5. Electrolytic flotation (or clcctroflotation)
Example: Sacrificing electrode system
Non-sacrificing electrode system
Flow pattern: Laminar flow, fine bubbles
(ias production:
5. Electrolytic flotation (or clcctroflotation)
Example: Sacrificing electrode system
Non-sacrificing electrode system
Row pattern: Laminar flow, fine bubbles
(ias production:
Anode: 2H,<>----- > 4H* + (), + 4e~
Cathode: 4e + 4 H ,()----- ►2H, + 4<)H"
2 H ,0 ----- > 2H, + 0 2
6. Biological dotation
Example: Activated sludge thickening under denitrification condition
Row pattern: Laminar flow and fine bubbles
Gas production:
6NOj + 2CH,OH----- » 6N(). + 2 C O ,+ 4H20
6NO: + 3CH ,()H ---- » 3N, + 3CO, + 3 H ,0 + 60H
6NO, + 5CH3() H ----> 5C02 + 3N, + 7H,() + fi()H

Although many gases, such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and
o/one, arc suitable, air is the cheapest and most readily available for bubble generation.
Based on the technique and the type o f gas used lor bubble generation, the adsorptive
bubble separation process can be classified mainly as dissolved air flotation, dispersed
air flotation, vacuum flotation, electrolytic flotation (i.c., clcctroflotation) and biological
flotation, as indicated in Table 2. If no gas is involved or used at all. the substances
(such as oil or wax) are separated from liquid by the density difference between the
target substance and the liquid, and the process is termed plain gravity flotation. The
most common plain gravity flotation is the oil-water separation process. The following
section briefly defines various adsorptive bubble separation processes.
Adsorptive Bubble Separation and Dispersed A ir Flotation 85


2.7. D issolved A ir Flotation
Dissolved air flotation (DAF) is a process involving pressurization of air at 25-95
psig for dissolving air into water, and subsequent release o f pressure (to I atm) under
laminar flow conditions for generating extremely fine air bubbles (normally 20-80
microns), which become attached to the impurities to be removed. The air flow rate is
about 1% of influent liquid flow rate. The attachment of air bubbles to the impurities
can be a result of physical entrapment, electrochemical attraction, surface adsorption,
and/or gas stripping. The specific gravity of the bubble-impurity agglomerates is less
than I, resulting in buoyancy or non-selective flotation (i.e., a save-all process) (1.75).
Another chapter of this handbook series presents the theory, principles, operation, main­
tenance. design criteria, costs, chemical additives, process control, applications, tests,
and design examples of dissolved air flotation in detail (2). In the past 40 years, dis­
solved air flotation has been used mainly for sludge thickening and liber recovery
(3.4,117,1 18). Now dissolved air flotation becomes a high technology for potable water
purification (2,5-9,18,119) and wastewater treatment (2,10-17.22). Table 3 summarizes
the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) data on separation of pollutants by
dissolved air flotation.
2.2. Dispersed Air Flotation
2.2. Dispersed A ir Flotation
Dispersed air flotation (or induced air flotation) is a process involving introduction of
air directly into the water through a revolving impeller, a diffuser, or an ejector at low
pressure (slightly higher than I atm) for generating large air hubbies (normally
80 microns to over 1 mm) in large volumes under turbulent conditions. The air flow rate
is about 400% of influent liquid flow rate. Physical entrapment and electrochemical
attraction play minor roles in a dispersed air notation system. The attachment o f air
bubbles to the impurities is mainly a result of surface adsorption, gas stripping, and oxidation.
Surface-active substances (inks, detergents, and so on) are selectively separated in a foam
phase ( I ). Volatile substances are removed by gas stripping. Reducing agents, such
as ferrous ions, can be oxidized to ferric ions by air for subsequent separation in ferric
hydroxide form. Dispersed air flotation can be used in ore separation (67-70.87.
96.101-107.110-116). coal purification (1 14). fiber dc-inking (I7.2I.S9). waste
water treatment (2,19.20,22,30,41,116). water purification (23), surfactant separation (24).
lignin separation (, and so on. Because o f its significance, this chapter
introduces this process in detail.
2.3. Vacuum Flotation
In vacuum flotation, the influent process liquid to be treated is saturated with air at
atmospheric pressure. There is an air-tight enclosure on the top of the flotation chamber
in which a partial vacuum is maintained (75). The fine air bubbles (20-80 microns) are
generated under laminar flow conditions by applying such a vacuum to the flotation
chamber. The theory is that the lower the pressure, the lower the air solubility in w ater.
The soluble air originally in water is partially released out of solution as extremely fine
bubbles due It) a reduction in air solubility caused by negative vacuum pressure. The
86 Lawrence K. Wang

Table 3
Control Technology Summary for Flotation
Effluent concentration Removal efficiency (*&)
Pollutant Range Median Median
Classical pollutants (mg/L)
BOD (5-d) 140-1000 250 68
COD 18-3200 1200 66
TSS (fiber, sludge, floe) 18-740 82 88
Total phosphorus <0.05-12 0.66 98
Total phenols >0.001-23 0.66 12
Oil & grease 16-220 84 79
Toxic pollutants (pg/L)
Antimony ND-2300 20 76
Arsenic ND-18 <10 45
Xylene ND-1000 200 97
Cadmium BDL-<72 3 98
Chromium 2-620 200 52
Copper 5-960 180 75
Cyanide <10-2300 54 10
Lead ND-1000 70 98
Mercury BDL-2 75
Nickel ND-270 41 73
Silver BDL-66 19 45
Zinc ND-53000 2(X) 89
Bisi 2-chtylhcxyl) phthalatc 30-1100 100 72
Nickel ND-270 41 73
Silver BDL-66 19 45
Zinc ND-53000 2(X) 89
#/'s(2-chtyIhexyl) phthalutc 30-1100 100 72
Butylbcnzylphthalatc ND-42 >99
Carbon tetrachloride BDL-210 36 75
Chloroform ND-24 9 58
Dichlorobromomethane NA >99
Di-n-butyl phthalutc ND-300 20 97
Diethyl phthalate NA >99
Di-n-octyl phthalate ND 33 II 78
N-nitrosodiphcnylaminc NA 620 66
2.4-Dimethylphenol ND-28 14 >99
Pcntachlorophcnol 5-30 13 19
Phenol 9-2400 71 57
Dichlorobcnzene 18-260 140 76
Ethylbenzene ND-970 44 65
Toluene ND-2100 580 39
Naphthalene ND-840 96 77
Anthraccnc/phcnanthrcnc 0.2-600 10 81
NA = not available: BDI. = below detection line: NI) = not detected.
Soun e: US fiPA.

hubbies and the attached solid particles rise to the surface to form a scum blanket, which
can be removed by a continuous scooping or skimming mechanism, (irit and other
heavy solids that settle to the bottom are raked to a central sludge sump for removal.
Auxiliary equipment include an aeration tank for saturating the wastewater with air. vacuum
Adsorptive Bubble Separation and Dispersed A ir Flotation 87

pumps, and sludge pumps (1,2). In theory, vacuum notation is similar to dissolved air
flotation because both processes rely on pressure reduction for generation of fine bubbles.
The reactor designs of two processes, however, are significantly different. Vacuum flotation
has been gradually replaced by dissolved air flotation in various practical applications.

2.4. Electrolytic Flotation

Electrolytic flotation is also called electroflotation, which is a process involving the
generation of hydrogen and oxygen bubbles in a dilute aqueous solution by passing a
direct current between two electrodes (75). The anode reaction generates oxygen bubbles
and hydrogen ions, while the cathode reaction generates hydrogen bubbles and hydrox­
ide ions. Either aluminum or steel sacrificial electrodes can lx* employed for generating
the gas bubbles as well as coagulants. Non-sacrificial electrodes are employed for gen­
erating the gas bubbles only, and can be made o f titanium (as the carrier material) and
lead dioxide (as the coating material). Electrical power is supplied to the electrodes at a
low \oltage potential of S-20 V DC by means o f a transformer rectifier. Small bubbles
in the range of 20-50 microns are produced under laminar flow conditions feasible for
separation of fragile floes in a small system. There can be unexpected advantages and
disadvantages when electrolytic flotation is employed ( I). Electroflotation process has
been employed for treatment of septic tank effluent (25.26), groundwater (26). and
industrial wastes (27,120-122). The following are the author's electroflotation reactions
( I) occurring at an anode and a cathode assuming the process water contains sufficient
but not excessive amounts of electrolytes:
Anode: 2 H ,()----- > 4H* + (), + 4e
Cathode: 4e + 4 H 20 ---- * 2 H 2 + 40H~

2H2( ) ---- >2H: + ()2

It can be seen that normally water produces fine hydrogen bubbles at a cathode and
fine oxygen bubbles at an anode. In the presence of excessive electrolytes, other types
of gaseous bubbles may also be produced from the electroflotation system depending
upon the types and concentrations o f electrolytes in the water. This is the reason why
electroflotation may give either unexpected good results or unexpected bad results
( 120 121
. ).

2.5. Biological Flotation

In a biological flotation system, fermentations take place in the presence of anaero­
bic bacteria, nitrates, and substrates under anaerobic environment. Anaerobic bacteria in
waste sludge convert nitrate and the substrate with carbon source (such as methanol) to
nitrite, water, and carbon dioxide fine bubbles. Nitrite further reacts with a substrate
(such as methanol) in the same waste sludge, producing fine nitrogen bubbles, more fine
carbon dioxide bubbles, water, anil hydroxide ions. The biological waste sludge, such
as activated sludge can then be floated to the surface by the fine nitrogen and carbon
dioxide bubbles. While the energy consumption o f this process is low. its detention time
is as long as 1-2 d ( 1.3). The following are the authors chemical reactions in a biological
flotation reactor for thickening of secondary activated sludge under denitrification conditions