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Purification techniques

Bulletin 004

1 Coagulation
1.1 What is coagulation?
To understand coagulation, it is important to know what a colloid is and what coagulation is.
Coagulation in water purification, it is destabilizing colloidal particles by neutralizing their charge with an
added chemical, a so-called coagulant. A colloid is a small particle that is slightly larger than a molecule
and has a diameter between 1 and 1000 nanometers. These particles can be solid, liquid or gaseous. A
colloidal system where the particles are solid and the media is liquid, or in other words a colloidal
suspension, is in a state that is midway between a solution and a precipitate. These particles are
therefore often very difficult to remove.

1.2 How does coagulation work?

Coagulation is all about destabilizing colloidal particles by adding chemicals. This will cause these
particles to clump together (by van der Waals forces) to larger agglomerates (particles or flakes). In the
water industry people, for example, use a coagulant such as FeCl3 together with the water that needs to
be treated, the FeCl3 ensures that the process of coagulation can take place in a filter or vessel. Often
there is yet another purification technique used to remove the formed particles, the particles settle or
float in the water. Settled particles removal is usually through sedimentation and the floating particles
are removed via flotation, or the water passes over a filter and this is called filtration. Intervention of a
coagulant should be done as quickly as possible for effective operation. High short-term mixing energy is
a requirement here. (The flake formation (particle formation) is with low mixing energy).

Important when applying coagulation is determining the right coagulant, the optimal pH value, and the
correct dosage. To determine this, practical tests are done, these tests are called Jar tests.

1.3 What are the advantages of coagulation?

• Small installations, high flow rate possible with a relatively small installation
• Robust process, security
• Good return, high achieve removal efficiencies for particles that are difficult to remove

1.4 What are the disadvantages of coagulation?

• Precipitation from calcium carbonate (lime) due to possible pH changes in the filter or pipes
• Use of chemicals required compared to, for example, aeration
• Costs, contaminated sludge often still has to be processed.

1.5 What can be removed via coagulation?
With coagulation you can remove various small particles such as, phosphates (orto and total P), humus
and fulvic acids. In addition, it is also possible to reduce fats, carbohydrates, proteins, microorganisms
and (heavy) metals. Coagulation is applied in the drinking water, textile, water treatment, food, and
metal treatment industry.

Follow below links to learn more about other purification techniques:

Activated carbon, Aeration, Coagulants, Recrystallization, Ion exchangers, Molecular sieves, Ozone oxidation, UV Disinfection,
Rapid and slow sand filtration.

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