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Modelling and simulation of the agglomeration of settling particles under shear in dewatering processes

Project Description

Many industries, including minerals, pulp and paper, dairy, water and waste water, require solid-liquid separation, otherwise known as dewatering, as an integral part of operations. These industries generally tend to create a significant amount of liquid with suspended solids as waste. By reducing waste volume and water losses, optimisation of dewatering processes has the potential to provide major improvements on the environmental impact and economic prospect of these industries.

Modern dewatering theory was developed at the end of the eighties [1] and has been successful in describing ‘one dimensional’ dewatering. The theory, however, fails in more complex settings. In the case of gravity thickeners, for instance, dewatering theory predictions can underestimate the solids flux by a factor of 100 [2]. To be fully predictive, dewatering theory requires data on changes in the structure of particle aggregates under various shear conditions during settling and, at the moment, there is no computational method that can provide this information.

In this PhD project, we will use a novel modelling technique called Discrete Multiphysics (DMP) [3] to deliver this computational method. Traditional multiphysics packages, in fact, cannot resolve the hydrodynamics around the agglomerating particles, while DMP has been designed for these types of situations.

This project will bring together a set of unique expertise and skills only available at the two Schools of Chemical Engineering at the University of Melbourne and at the University of Birmingham. In Melbourne, there is one of the world’s highest concentrations of expertise in dewatering processes and a very high number of studies in the field have been published by this institution. The Discrete Multiphysics method, on the other hand, was invented and developed at the University of Birmingham and this institution is the best place to learn this technique.

The main objective of the thesis is the development of a DMP model for particle aggregate densification under shear and the implementation of this model within the dewatering theory.

Funding Notes

A fully-funded studentship, which includes tax-free Doctoral Stipend of £15,009* per annum, is available for Home/EU and Overseas students on this Joint PhD programme between the University of Birmingham and the University of Melbourne for October 2019 start. For students who are to be hosted by the University of Melbourne, the scholarship rate will be $AUD30,000 p.a. and will include provision for a return trip to Birmingham.
*subject to inflationary variation


[1] Buscall, R. and L. R. White (1987) The consolidation of concentrated suspensions. Part 1.-The theory of sedimentation. Journal of the Chemical Society, Faraday Transactions 1: Physical Chemistry in Condensed Phases 83(3): 873-891.
[2] Usher, S. P., L. J. Studer, R. Wall and P. J. Scales (2013) Characterisation of dewaterability from equilibrium and transient centrifugation test data. Chemical Engineering Science 93: 277-291.
[3] Alexiadis A., (2015) The Discrete Multi-Hybrid System for the simulation of solid-liquid flows PLoS ONE 10(5): e0124678

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