Monday, 24 October 2016

Modelling Multi-phase Minerals Processing Systems

Minerals processing is characterised by complex multi-phase flows that present significant modelling and simulation challenges. Recent advances in not just computational power, but also the models, algorithms and implementations, especially in terms of parallel processing, have resulted in significant improvements in our ability to directly simulate these systems. Despite the computational resources available, the shear range of scales at which important phenomena occur at in minerals processing means that no one technique can hope to resolve all the complexity of these systems. This means that the approach used needs to be tailored to the system and scale being studied.
MEI's highly specialised Computational Modelling conferences now attract an elite group of scientists from around the world, to discuss the rapid advances in this field. Prof. Stephen Neethling is just one of this highly focused band, who has attended all five of these meetings.
Stephen is currently a Professor of Minerals Processing in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering (Royal School of Mines) at Imperial College London, where he has worked for the last 11 years. Prior to that he worked in the Department of Chemical Engineering at UMIST/University of Manchester, where he also obtained his PhD. He is originally from South Africa and did his undergraduate studies at the University of Cape Town. His main research area is in the modelling and simulation of minerals processing systems, with particular emphasis on flotation and heap leaching. He is particularly interested in how the models and results obtained from them can be applied in industry and to this end he has worked closely with a range of major mining and mining equipment companies including Rio Tinto, Weir Minerals, Imerys and Outotec.
Stephen will be presenting an eponymous keynote at Computational Modelling '17 in Falmouth next June, in which he will examine a range of different approaches that have been applied within his group at Imperial College. At the equipment scale continuum Finite Element and Control Volume based Eulerian-Eulerian simulations are often most appropriate, with the discontinuous phase being modelled using approaches such as population balancing. This, though, requires assumptions to be made about both the interactions between phases and about how the behaviour of an ensemble of discrete particles is averaged. Some of these issues can be resolved by treating the discrete phase in a Lagrangian fashion either by using representative particles or by using a full DEM approach to model the particles in the system and coupling this behaviour to either an Eulerian or Lagrangian fluid flow simulation. These types of approaches, though, will typically come at the cost of a significant increase in the simulation complexity and computational effort required. The utility and shortcomings of all these approaches will be discussed in the context of the modelling of a variety of minerals processing systems and equipment, including flotation, heap leaching, mills and wear in slurry pumps.
Computational Modelling '17 will be held at the St. Michael's Hotel in Falmouth, Cornwall, back to back with Physical Separation '17.

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