Physico-chemical treatment applications

There are many applications for physico-chemical treatment in water treatment, including :

Milk clotting

Here’s a 3-step guide to how milk is coagulated to form cheese.

There are three main steps in the cheese-making process:

  • First, it is important to use enzymes to split the casein.
  • To proceed with the following step, which involves the aggregation of micelles by flocculation, it is essential to have catalyzed 80% of the casein.
  • Flocculation is also at work during the milk renneting phase. This step is the physical process of aggregating casein particles to form a gel.
  • After shedding its water-soluble tail, casein can no longer keep the particles apart. The micelles will come into contact to form chains and clusters, continuing to grow and creating a three-dimensional network that entraps water inside. So we will obtain a jelly.
  • Finally, in the third phase of enzymatic coagulation, the networks continue to form, resulting in a firming of the gel. When this gel is sufficiently firm, the cheese is then cut.

Coagulation in chemistry.

Chemical coagulation can take various forms, and it is quite different from those found in the field of water management.

Flocculation of suspended solids

Suspended solids flocculation is often used to eliminate turbidity. This turbidity hinders the effectiveness of disinfection treatments. Therefore, coupled with coagulation and applied as the final step, flocculation increases the size of flocs by the addition of polymer. Subsequently, these flocs can be separated from the treated water through settling or flotation.

Flocculation of soil and clay.

Clays impart specific properties to the soils in which they are present, which are attributed to:

  • their very small size.
  • the sheet-like structure.
  • the negative charge they carry (electron-negative colloids).

They form complex colloidal solutions with soil water and other colloids (especially humic acids) that flocculate when the surface charges of the particles are neutralized by cations. This phenomenon is reversible, so the particles return to their dispersed state when the cations are eliminated through rinsing.

The flocculation of clay-humic complexes causes the agglomeration of other fine soil constituents (silts, sands). The observation of soil clods, whether they are porous and aerated, resistant to mechanical pressures, rain without disintegrating, or quite the opposite (hard-packed soil), provides information about the degree of flocculation. In simplified terms, the degree of flocculation is more significant when it involves large-sized cations with a substantial charge deficiency.

The cations Al+++, Fe+++, Ca++, Mn++, Mg++, Fe++ enable stronger flocculation than ions K+, Na+… the ‘worst’ being the H+ ion, which additionally imparts a more acidic reaction to soils as its concentration increases. Mineral exchanges between plants and soil (in other words, soil fertility) depend to a large extent on the flocculation quality of clay-humus complexes.

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