Effect of dissolved precipitating ions on the settling characteristics of copper sulphide

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Journal of the South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy

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University of Cape Town

Surface properties of metal sulphides have a great significance in various areas of engineering and science, such as acid mine drainage, contaminant sorption, and metal separation. In various attempts at producing metal sulphide particles from synthetic solutions, prodigious quantities of nuclei that grow only to colloidal dimensions have been frequently reported. This copious nucleation is promoted by the high levels of supersaturation that characterize most precipitation reactions. Colloidal particle formation in precipitation-based separation processes results in sub-optimal solid-liquid separation, which is alleviated by the production of more highly crystalline particles or agglomerates. The current work approaches this challenge from an electrochemistry perspective, by measuring surface charge potential of precipitant particles during metal sulphide precipitation with respect to the concentration of metal sulphide lattice ions in solution. Electrophoresis was used to measure the metal sulphide particle zeta potential and the settling properties were obtained by performing settleability measurements using an Imhoff settling cone. A suspension of copper sulphide particles was precipitated from synthetic solutions of copper and sulphide ions at equimolar concentrations. Immediately after precipitation the copper sulphide particles had a zeta potential of -50 mV and a settleability of about 7 ml.l-1. With the addition of copper ions the settleability increased by a factor of nearly three times and the zeta potential also increased to a maximum of -40 mV. A decrease in zeta potential to a minimum of -60 mV was observed after the addition of sulphide ions and this was associated with a settleability of 0 ml.l-1.