Journal of Colloid and Interface Science


Flocculation performance using polyelectrolytes is influenced by critical design parameters including molecular weight, amount and sign of the ionic charge, and polymer architecture. It is expected that systematic variation of these characteristics will impact not only flocculation efficiency (FE) achieved but that charge density and architecture, specifically, can alter the flocculation mechanism. Therefore, it should be possible to tune these design parameters for a desired flocculation application.


Cationic-neutral and polyampholytic copolymers, exhibiting a range of molecular weights (103–106 g/mol), varying charge levels (0–100% cationic, neutral and anionic), and random or block copolymer architecture, were applied to dilute suspensions of silica microparticles (control) and Chlorella vulgaris. FE and zeta potential values were determined over a range of flocculant doses to evaluate effectiveness and mechanism achieved.


These different classes of copolymers provide specific benefits for flocculation, with many achieving >95% flocculation. Block copolymer flocculants exhibit a proposed, dominant bridging mechanism, therefore reducing flocculant dosage required for effective flocculation when compared to analogous random copolymer flocculants. Polyampholytic copolymers applied to C. vulgaris generally exhibited a bridging mechanism and increased FE compared to equivalent cationic-neutral copolymers, indicating a benefit of the anionic component on a more, complex, diversely charged suspension.

For details:

Flocculation behavior and mechanisms of block copolymer architectures on silica microparticle and Chlorella vulgaris systems

Kathryn L. Morrissey a, Benjamin D. Fairbanks a, David S. Bull a, Mark P. Stoykovich b, Christopher N. Bowman a

a Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309, USA

b Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA

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