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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Frothing properties of fatty acid collectors Atrafi, Avishan


The gas dispersion and foaming properties of aqueous solutions of fatty acids of different hydrocarbon chain lengths were assessed through measurements of bubble size distributions, gas hold-up, foam volume and growth rate. The adsorption behavior of the tested fatty acids at the gas-solution interface was assessed and the results were supplemented by measurements of the partition of each surfactant between the bulk solution and foam phase as a result of continuous aeration. Two mechanisms of gas dispersion were identified depending on the pH and speciation of the tested solutions. Solutions of long chain fatty acids containing colloidal precipitates at low pH exhibited low surface tensions, and only a small decrease in bubble sizes was observed for such solutions compared to bubble sizes measured in water. This relatively small change in bubble sizes could theoretically be predicted based only on the corresponding change in the surface tension of the solutions. In contrast, true solutions of long chain fatty acids affected bubble sizes to a much greater extent even though their surface tension values were higher and in some cases comparable to the surface tension of water. A combination of the surface tension and surface tension gradient effects was found to be operative in this case. Experimental results strongly suggested that the associated acid species were more surface-active and more capable of reducing bubble sizes than the dissociated carboxylate anion. The ability of the surfactants to quickly generate a large foam volume was found to be a strong function of the chain length. Although bubble size measurements in bulk solution pointed towards similar gas dispersing abilities of fatty acids of different chain lengths, their foamabilities under the same conditions were remarkably enhanced by increasing chain length. Creation of large volumes of persistent foam was correlated with strong tendency to partition into the foam phase. Overall, the gas dispersing properties of fatty acids were comparable to those of a weak frother such as methyl isobutyl carbinol (MIBC), while only the foaming capabilities of hexanoate were similar to those of MIBC. Longer chain fatty acids were much stronger foaming agents than MIBC.

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