Looking like a supercharged stick blender, SWIRLFLOW sits at the top of the mixing tank and generates a tornado-like swirl throughout the fluid, which delivers superior mixing and dispersion of solids in thick slurries.
CSIRO Research Program Director, Andrew Jenkin, says SWIRLFLOW is a leading example of CSIRO innovation and science in response to industry challenges.
“SWIRLFLOW was invented to overcome severe production losses caused by scale build-up on the sides of mixing tanks experienced during the alumina refinery process,” Mr Jenkin said.
Many mineral processing procedures rely on keeping solids in suspension in large tanks. Inefficient processing through uneven mixing and build-up of solids (scale) around the tank wall can reduce the amount of metal extracted, cause frequent downtime for equipment maintenance, and increase energy consumption.
“Our fluids engineering team worked with QAL to create a technology solution that increases in the overall efficiency of the process by reducing scale, increasing yield and reducing costs,” Mr Jenkin said.
“We estimate an average alumina refinery can save between five-to-ten million dollars a year in capital and production costs.”
The swirling flow created by SWIRLFLOW picks up solids from the base of the tank and lifts them to the upper regions, where the solids continue to spiral downward along the tank wall en-route back to the base, to be lifted again. The swirling motion also creates a cleansing effect against the tank walls, reducing scale.
CSIRO has now installed around 30 SWIRLFLOW units and is making an impact on the global alumina industry, operating in China, Germany and Vietnam.
SWIRLFLOW technology has attracted attention from processors of other minerals including those in the magnetite, uranium and gold industries.
To date, SWIRLFLOW units have been successfully trialled in a gold tailings neutralisation tank in Australia and in a gold leach tank in Guinea.
Contact CSIRO for fluids engineering expertise and licencing enquires for SWIRLFLOW.