Nanoparticle Flotation Collectors—The Influence of Particle Softness
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The ability of polymeric nanoparticles to promote glass bead and pentlandite (Pn, nickel sulfide mineral) attachment to air bubbles in flotation was measured as a function of the nanoparticle glass transition temperature using six types of nanoparticles based on styrene/N-butylacrylate copolymers. Nanoparticle size, surface charge density, and hydrophobicity were approximately constant over the series. The ability of the nanoparticles to promote air bubble attachment and perform as flotation collectors was significantly greater for softer nanoparticles. We propose that softer nanoparticles were more firmly attached to the glass beads or mineral surface because the softer particles had a greater glass/polymer contact areas and thus stronger overall adhesion. The diameters of the contact areas between polymeric nanoparticles and glass surfaces were estimated with the Young-Laplace equation for soft, liquidlike particles, whereas JKR adhesion theory was applied to the harder polystyrene particles. The diameters of the contact areas were estimated to be more than an order of magnitude greater for the soft particles compared to harder polystyrene particles.
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