The separation performance of solid phase bed material, at various particle size ranges, in an air dense medium fluidized bed (ADMFB), were evaluated during this study. The coal particles were separated into +0.5mm-1mm, +1mm-2mm, +2mm-2.8mm, +2.8mm-4mm, +4mm-4.75mm and +4.75mm-5.6mm particle size ranges and fed to the fluidized bed in these fractions. Along with the six coal particle size ranges, three dense media to coal ratios and the addition of vibration was tested to identify the best operating conditions. Adequate results were obtained for larger particle size ranges down to and including +2.0mm-2.8mm coal particles, after which the separation performance decreased significantly. Density stratification was irregular and not obvious for coal particles below 2.0mm and maintaining a consistent fluidization state also proved to be challenging, especially when dense medium was added.
The coal particles separated vertically along the bed height because of differences in particle and bed density, while particle size proved to have a notable influence on the degree of separation. An air fluidization velocity of between 1.1 to 1.4Umf was shown as the best performing velocity, which yielded the maximum ash differential between the top and bottom layers of the bed for all the particle size ranges tested.
For +2.0mm-5.6mm coal particles, low cumulative ash yields were obtained at high mass yields, however the ash yields increased for -2mm coal. Vibration and dense medium have, in some cases, enhanced the separation efficiency of the ADMFB. The -2.0mm particles experienced stronger particle-particle interactions as well as elevated levels of bubbling and back mixing than that of the +2.0mm particles, which explains the poor performance of the small particle sizes.