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Characterization of industrial flocculants through intrinsic viscosity measurements Esau, Arinaitwe

Abstract

The effect of pH, temperature, and ionic strength on the molecular conformation of five industrial polyacrylamide-based flocculants was investigated by determining intrinsic viscosities on dilute flocculant solutions. The Fedors equation was found to be most suitable for all flocculants for determining the intrinsic viscosity. The results indicated that the flocculants are fully extended in distilled water at natural pH and at 25°C as evidenced by the high intrinsic viscosities. The data pointed to the strong dependence of the intrinsic viscosity on the presence of salts as a result of the shielding of negatively charged carboxylate groups by the counterions. At a constant ionic strength of 0.01M NaCl, the flocculants assumed a coiled conformation, and further coiling was observed in the presence of small quantities of calcium chloride. CaC1₂ (0.001 mo1/L) There was a decrease in intrinsic viscosities at high pH (~8.5 and 10.5) that was merely attributed to an increase in ionic strength with the increase in concentration of Na⁺ at high pH. Intrinsic viscosity measurements at higher temperatures (35°C and 50°C) showed a small effect of temperature on the conformation of the flocculants. Higher temperature, however, seemed to accelerate the aging of the flocculant solutions. The degrees of anionicity of the flocculants were found to be in the range 1.5% to 50%, as determined through chemical analysis. It was established that determination of total organic carbon content and sodium assays is an accurate way of obtaining the degrees of anionicity of industrial flocculants. The solution stability of the flocculants in distilled water and in 0.01M NaCl was investigated over a period of three days. The reduced viscosities of the anionic flocculant in distilled water steadily decreased. The decrease was more dramatic at high temperature (50°C) than at room temperature, but no viscosity loss was observed in the presence of NaCl. The viscosity of the nonionic flocculant was stable in both distilled water and NaCl. The viscosity loss with time in the case of the anionic flocculant can be correlated with the hydrolysis of the weakly acidic carboxylate (C00⁻) groups to release OH⁻ ions and simultaneous association into uncharged carboxylic (C00H) groups that promote coiling of polyacrylamide. This effect is therefore very similar to the earlier-mentioned effect of sodium chloride.

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