Turning the tide on mineral extraction
Professor Kevin Galvin's Reflux Classifier may sound like a creation akin to time-travel machines in fantasy films. In reality, it can save the global mining and minerals processing industry billions of dollars.
The award-winning technology, developed in collaboration with commercial partner Ludowici, is an industrial machine that separates fine particles on the basis of either density or size, improving the efficiency of the process with its unique tilted design.
For Professor Galvin, who is Director of the University of Newcastle's Centre for Advanced Particle Processing and Transport, it confirms his reputation as an internationally acclaimed chemical engineer.
The Reflux Classifier was developed by combing a conventional fluidized bed with a system of inclined channels to achieve enhanced rates of segregation of high density particles, and enhanced conveying of low density particles.
"The technique relies on the fact that the value of a material is usually related directly to its density," Professor Galvin said.
The Reflux Classifier can be applied to a relatively broad range of particle sizes, and achieve higher recovery of valuable material than other water-based technologies. The technology has succeeded in solving an existing processing problem by achieving the sharp separations essential in the recovery of premium, high grade metallurgical coal.
Already under patent, the Reflux Classifier is currently used in seven countries and Professor Galvin's research team, which forms part of the University's Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER), continues to investigate the full potential of the concept in other areas.
"The technology has potential significance for any industry where a separation process based on particle size or density is applicable," Professor Galvin said.
"The chromate industry has recently installed a Reflux Classifier which is an important milestone for the commercialisation of the technology in the area of dense minerals."
CEO of Newcastle Innovation, Dr Brent Jenkins, said Professor Galvin's work was a prime example of the benefits of research collaboration with industry.
"The Reflux Classifier has been widely adopted in the mining industry to significant benefit," Dr Jenkins said. "Industry investment in the research and development behind the technology helped drive its success."
The opening of NIER in mid-2011 further enhanced the strong collaboration between the University's engineering experts and industry.
The most comprehensive energy research institute of its kind in Australia, NIER confirms the Hunter region's reputation as a national hub for energy and resources research. The facility comprises extensive laboratories and industrial-scale pilot plant workshops unmatched by any Australian university.
Visit the Centre for Advanced Particle Processing and Transport website
Visit the NIER website
For more on industry investment opportunities visit the Newcastle Innovation website