Flocculation(produced by flocculants), in the field of chemistry, is a process by which colloidal particles come out of suspension to sediment under the form of floc or flake, either spontaneously or due to the addition of a clarifying agent. The action differs from precipitation in that, prior to flocculation, colloids are merely suspended, under the form of a stable dispersion, in a liquid and are not truly dissolved in solution.
Coagulation and flocculation are important processes in water treatment with coagulation aimed to destabilize and aggregate particles through chemical interactions between the coagulant and colloids, and flocculation to sediment the destabilized particles by causing their aggregation into floc.
According to the IUPAC definition, flocculation is "a process of contact and adhesion whereby the particles of a dispersion form larger-size clusters". Flocculation is synonymous with agglomeration and coagulation / coalescence.
Basically, coagulation is a process of addition of coagulant to destabilize a stabilized charged particle. Meanwhile, flocculation is a mixing technique that promotes agglomeration and assists in the settling of particles.
During flocculation, gentle mixing accelerates the rate of particle collision, and the destabilized particles are further aggregated and enmeshed into larger precipitates. Flocculation is affected by several parameters, including mixing speeds, mixing intensity, and mixing time. The product of the mixing intensity and mixing time is used to describe flocculation processes.
Applications in Brewing
In the brewing industry flocculation has a different meaning. It is a very important process in fermentation during the production of beer where cells form macroscopic flocs. These flocs cause the yeast to sediment or rise to the top of a fermentation at the end of the fermentation. Subsequently, the yeast can be collected (cropped) from the top (ale fermentation) or the bottom (lager fermentation) of the fermenter in order to be reused for the next fermentation.
Yeast flocculation is primarily determined by the calcium concentration, often in the 50-100ppm range.Calcium salts can be added to cause flocculation, or the process can be reversed by removing calcium by adding phosphate to form insolubable calcium phosphate, adding excess sulfate to form insoluble calcium sulfate, or adding EDTA to chelate the calcium ions. While it appears similar to sedimentation in colloidal dispersions, the mechanisms are different.
Flocculats have a range of applications in many industry, or some other field you'd never think about it, but in fact you are benefiting from.
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