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This experiment primarily aims to study the sedimentation process. Specifically, it aims to

determine the effect to the settling rate as concentration and volume is varied in a static water system.

Also, it involves the construction of batch settling curves and designing of industrial settling tanks and

thickeners from the curves. Overall, it aims to infuse the significance of the laboratory batch sedimentation

to the students performing the experiment.

Theoretical Background

Sedimentation, as defined by Foust, A.S. (1960), is the separation by gravity settling of a

dilute slurry into a clear liquid and a slurry containing higher amount of solids. The mechanism of

sedimentation may be best described by observation of what occurs during a batch settling test as solids

settle from a slurry in a glass cylinder. In a newly prepared slurry in a glass cylinder of a uniform

concentration of uniform solid particles throughout the cylinder, as soon as the process starts, all particles

begin to settle and are assumed to approach rapidly the terminal velocities under hindered- settling

conditions. Several zones of concentration will be established as shown in the figure below.

Figure 2.1. Batch Sedimentation (Source: Principles of Unit Operations by Foust

Zone D of settled solids will predominantly include the heavier faster-settling particles. In a poorly

defined transition zone above the settled material, there are channels through which fluid must rise. This
fluid is forced from zone D as it compresses. Zone C is a region of variable size distribution and non-uniform

concentration. Zone B is a uniform-concentration zone, of approximately the same concentration and

distribution initially. At the top of region B is a boundary above which is clear liquid, region A. If the original

slurry is closely sized with respect to the smallest particles, the line between A and B is sharp.

As sedimentation continues, the heights of each zone vary as indicated in the figure above (figure

2.1.). Both A and D grow larger at the expense of B. Eventually, a point is reached where B and C disappear

and all the solids appear in D which is referred to as the critical settling point, the point at which a single

distinct interface forms between clear liquid and sediment. The sedimentation process from this point on

consists of a slow compression of the solids, with liquid from the boundary layer of each particle being

forced upward through the solids into the clear zone. Settling rates are very slow in this dense slurry. The

final phase is an extreme case of hindered settling.

In a batch-sedimentation operation, the height of the various zones vary with time. The same

zones will be present in continuously operating equipment. However, once steady state has been reached

(where the slurry fed per unit time to the thickener is equal to the rate of sludge and clear liquor removal),

the heights of each zone will be constant. The zones are pictured in the figure below for continuous


Figure 2.2. Settling Zone in Continuous Thickeners (Source: Principles of Unit Operations by
Industrial sedimentation operations may be carried out batchwise or continuously in equipment

called thickeners. The batch thickener operates exactly like the example cited above. The equipment is

nothing more than a cylindrical tank with openings for a slurry feed and product draw-off. The tank is filled

with a dilute slurry, and the slurry is permitted to settle. After a desired period of time, clear liquid is

decanted until sludge appears in the draw-off. The sludge is removed from the tank through a bottom

opening as indicated in figure 2.20.

Figure 2.3. Schematic Diagram of a Thickener

(Source: Principles of Unit Operations by Foust

In an illustration from the book Unit Operation of Chemical Engineering by McCabe and Smith

(1993) showing the plot of height of sludge vs time (as shown in the figure below), the velocity is constant

during the early stage of settling, as shown by the first portion of the curve. As solid gathers in zone D, the

rate of settling decreases and gradually stops until the ultimate height is reached.

Figure 2.4. Batch Settling Results

(Source: Unit Operation of Chemical Engineering by McCabe and Smith)
Furthermore, there is no exact rates that is to be observed in settling. McCabe and Smith (1993)

added that settling rates of slurries and relative heights of various zones during settling vary greatly. There

is a need for experimental study of each individual sludge to come up with accurate settling characteristics.


Foust (1960). Principles of Unit Operations, 2nd ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Canada.

McCabe and Smith (1993). Unit Operations of Chemical Engineering, 5th ed., McGraw-Hill, Inc., New York.