Thursday, 22 September 2011

The potential for the practical use of microwaves in comminution

Stephen Grano of the Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources, University of Adelaide, asks, on LinkedIn’s Coalition for Eco-Efficient Comminution group, “what is the industry status of microwaves as a means to reduce comminution energy by enhancing slective fractures prior to breakage? There has been a lot of research but has it been implemented”.

Stephen’s question has initiated a great deal of discussion on the group, which is rapidly proving to be the most dynamic of the comminution groups on LinkedIn.

There certainly has been a great deal of research in this field, and a number of excellent papers have been published in Minerals Engineering over the years, including good reviews by Prof. Chris Pickles on the fundamentals and applications. The AMIRA P879 Project is aimed at designing and building a large scale demonstration plant; an Executive Summary of this project can be found on MEI Online.

As pointed out by Mike Daniel of CMD Consulting, Australia, the main challenge to the industry is the scale of the operation. It is hard to compete with a 40ft, 24MW SAG mill treating 2500 tph. Ray Shaw, of R&D Consulting, Australia questions whether the industry feels there is sufficient potential value to drive the necessary work as it will take time and resources, but Klaas Peter van der Wielen, a PhD student at Camborne School of Mines, rightly points out that as ores become increasingly more complex, innovative technologies have to be developed and high voltage and microwave treatment may be the key to effectively processing these ores.

It is certainly an area with great potential and one which I hope will get some exposure at next year’s Comminution ’12, which has the theme “Designing for the concentrator of 2020- what are we contributing?”

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