The resistance of kaolin aggregates to shearing in water clarification and recovery operations is a critical input in designing thickener feed wells. A recently formulated but already available criterion is used to determine the shear strength of flocculated kaolin aggregates. The flocculant is a high molecular weight anionic polyelectrolyte. The resistance of the aggregates is evaluated as a function of flocculation time, flocculant dosage, and water quality. The determination is based on a standardized experimental method. First, the time evolution of the average size of kaolin flocs is
measured when aggregates are exposed to incremental shear rates from a predetermined base value. Then, the results are fitted to a pseudo-first-order model that allows deriving a characteristic value of the shear rate of rupture associated with the upper limit of the strength of the aggregates. In seawater, at a given dose of flocculant, the strength of the aggregates increases with time up to a maximum; however, at longer times, the resistance decreases until it settles at a stable value corresponding to
stable aggregates in size and structure. A higher flocculant dosage leads to stronger aggregates due to more bridges between particles and polymers, leading to a more intricate and resistant particle network. In industrial water with very low salt content, the resistance of the kaolin aggregates
is higher than in seawater for the same dose of flocculant. The salt weakens the resistance of the aggregates and works against the efficiency of the flocculant. The study should be of practical interest to concentration plants that use seawater in their operations.
Keywords: kaolin flocculation; aggregate resistance; salinity; flocculation kinetic; shear rate