Sunday, 1 April 2012

Could homeopathy provide the key to collectorless flotation?

The collectorless flotation of minerals has been one of the Holy Grails of flotation scientists. Although it has been achieved with a few highly hydrophobic materials such as diamond and anthracite, it has had little success with the vast majority of minerals, which have to be persuaded to float by the use of expensive and often toxic reagents.

Now Prof. Abel Gull and his team at the Bodmin Institute, UK, may have the answer, utilising the science of homeopathy.

Homeopathy is a controversial alternative medicine, which uses extremely diluted solutions and is claimed to work due to water having a memory, which allows homeopathic solutions to be used without any of the original substance being present (see Chaplin, M.F., The memory of water: an overview, Homeopathy, 96(3), 2007).

Prof. Gull's team treated a 10% by volume solution of xanthate using a process they call succussion, which involves serial dilution of the solution together with shaking and forceful striking on an elastic body; the exact process cannot be disclosed due to an impending patent application.

Each dilution is followed by succussion, until none of the original xanthate in the solution can be detected. However, repeated succussion produces what Prof Gull calls potentization, and the now essentially distilled water memorises the initial xanthate content. The team then found that the use of this water in sulphide mineral flotation was as effective as using the original, untreated xanthate solution.

Repeated trials have yet to be carried out, but this potential breakthrough could herald a new dawn in flotation technology, with negligible reagent usage and the concomitant reduction in treatment of environmentally hazardous tailings.

One of Prof Gull's coworkers, Dr. Richard Head commented "We are of course very excited about this work, which could be the greatest step forward in froth flotation in many years. Anyone having an interest in this technique would be very welcome at our Institute".


  1. Its a great discovery but I, or any scientifically oriented person would agree only if you provide sufficient data to back it up.
    I suggest to perform flotation tests with same ore sample in the same equipment with the only variable being the collector. Start with regular xanthate, proceed through the products of succussion and end with actual distilled water.
    If the above experiment reliably proves your theory, you will probably get a few nice awards and recognition. But until then, I'll call it what I call homeopathy: Placebo science

  2. Over the years of my work in the field of Flotation, I have come across a few "discoveries", but this one I have doubts about, even after having read the referenced article. I will believe it only when a full scale Flotation plant uses the "technology".
    Posted on Minerals Engineers, by Louis Bernard, Bernard Mining & Metallurgy, Canada

  3. Hey Barry - it doesn't count as an April Fools day joke. Here in Oz, I never read this till April 2nd :)

    Mark (who also goes by the name Gull A. Bull)

  4. This is remarkable and comes a year to the day after similar work in waterless flotation. While collectorless flotation will save a few cents per ton, until we get water out of the flowsheet we won't see any real improvements in efficiency. Also, I disagree with those who need testing and trials. I think that it's fine to take the kinds of developments at face value.
    Adam Johnston.

  5. It will only take 1 Million years to plant use. Not too far!

  6. I notice this was posted on April Fools Day. I suspect a few have fallen for it.

  7. Good one Barry!

  8. "Abel Gull" and "Richard Head"! A great April Fool - superficially plausible, but plenty of hints.

  9. ha, ha very funny Barry... presumably the Turkish prof Gul Ibal was part of it too?
    Posted on Minerals Engineers by Gavin Wonnacott, Torquay, UK

  10. I remember a friend doing research on this subject in 1997 at wits university in RSA. The results were very encouraging.
    Posted on Minerals Engineers by DAVID MUKENDI, Liberty Mining & Investments, Republic of Congo

  11. Timing appreciated! Anxiously looking for more details!
    Posted by Robert Seitz, Rio Tinto, USA

  12. He He, is this post possibly related to the date (1 April)
    Posted on Minerals Engineers by Wynand Nell, Bateman, South Africa

  13. This sounds interesting. We should however look forward to repeated trials and the exact process disclosure. I am and am sure many of us are curious about this great breakthrough. Thank you Barry for posting this very important information.

  14. I have tested the process described but I was unable to make it work. However, a colleague discovered the treated water was excellent for treatment of his chronic gout!
    Posted on Minerals Engineers by David Dew, Consultant, UK

    1. The shaking and forceful striking must have been painful though?

  15. Collectroless flotation of certain sulfides was shown to occur by Bill Trahar and Graeme Heyes of CSIRO in 1977. Other authors later researched this subject. Nat Arbiter and Fred Vargas applied collectrorless flotation to the recovery of copper from Arizona ores in the late 1980s. They showed it could work on the commercial scale but was not as efficient as flotation with xanthate collectors. Their work is summarised in N. Arbiter and J.E. Gebhardt, "Requirements for Industrial Collecorless Flotation of Sulfide Minerals", Proc. 3rd Int. Symp. Electrochemistry in Mineral and Metal Processing III, R.Woods and P.E. Richardson, Eds, Proc Vol. 92-17, pp. 1-13, The Electrochem. Soc., 1992. These authors concluded that "the need to consider ore geology and to control water quality and redox environments during grinding, conditioning and flotation make commercial-scale collectroless flotation impractical without advances in system controls".
    Posted on Minerals Engineers by Ronald Woods, Visiting Professor, Griffith University, Australia


    this site clearly states how homeopathy works...


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