Flocculators help determine the amount of treatment chemicals and the sequence in which they should be added for water treatment plants and other environmental test centers.
The term comes from flocculation, a chemical process where one substance – floating within another substance – exits suspension as a floc (or flake), usually after adding a clarifying agent. In water treatment and purification, coagulation flocculation involves adding compounds to promote the clumping of unwanted material into larger flocs for easier separation. The production of cheese (when solids begin to separate from the whey), beer, wine and other spirits (when yeast separates out after fermentation) also uses flocculation.
Flocculators In the Laboratory
While water treatment plants use larger scale paddle wheel or turbine flocculators as part of the treatment process, smaller scale flocculators – also referred to as jar testers – test small batches.
Performing pilot-scale tests with a jar tester saves plants money by allowing lab workers to refine their treatment options. Jar testing simulates the coagulation/flocculation process used in a water treatment plant. Stirring a sample allows the formation and settling of floc to be observed as it would be in the plant.
In the lab, smaller sample sizes allow easier adjustment of the chemical dosage and the sequence in which they’re added. This optimizes the results of settling, so it reduces chemical consumption in the full-scale treatment center. In addition to dosage, other parameters can be altered, including chemical types, mixing rate, aeration level, aeration time and filtration type.
Laboratory flocculators accommodate a different number of beakers or jars to test various samples at the same time. Lab workers add the same amount of water to each beaker, treating each sample using different amounts of chemicals or adding the chemicals in a different order to find the most effective course of action.
For onsite use, some flocculators, like the portable Velp Scientifica FP4, feature the ability to be powered by integrated battery or 12V car or truck cigarette lighter socket. Velp Scientifica also offers an optional carrying case for even more portability.
When choosing a flocculator, consider other features and how they’ll impact your tasks. Considerations include maximum speed, variable speed capability and an adjustable height for stirring blades.