News & Stories

Innovation Challenge - Alternative Method of Particle Identification and Separation



A Scottish company is looking for an alternative method of sorting streams of particles. Their current solution is to use a hydrocyclone which is a mechanical device with one inlet and two outlets for course or fine particles. It is a simple piece of equipment however it has the disadvantage that the sorting process can be inefficient. The company has identified that alternative methods may exist in other industries such as food, pharma, industrial chemicals/biotech, agriculture, FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) oil and gas. It is expected that an alternative solution would likely require development and ruggedisation as the final application is for sorting ore in the mining industry.


A typical hydrocyclone cluster will consist of 8-10 cyclones and will process up to 10,000,000 tonnes of material per year.  Often these clusters allow up to 20% of the undersize to be incorrectly classified and recycled through the mill and similarly 20% of oversize material to be incorrectly classified and passed on to later process steps with the undersize fraction.

Improved classification and separation capabilities could result from the following:

·        Significant re-working of existing hydrocyclone circuit

·        Novel method for classification of particle size which can serve to separate ore in to two streams based on the size of the particles

In most mineral processing operations, mineralised ore/rock is blasted, crushed and then ground/milled in a wet slurry environment to a particle size typically in 0.05 - 0.2mm range.  This enables the liberation of the valuable minerals from waste material. However, the typical mill discharge slurry may be in the range of 0.05 - 2mm, meaning many particles are recycled through the mill multiple times to reach the target particle size.  

The grinding/milling stage of ore processing is recognized as the most costly process in terms of both energy intensity and equipment maintenance demands. The company recognises that the hydrocyclone is one of the simplest pieces of equipment on a minerals processing site yet it has the potential to drive significant profit. A solution which can replace or increase the efficiency of the hydrocyclone circuit would be of interest. The solution could be a completely new product design, a modification of an existing design or could focus on the sensors and control systems to improve the current classification system.

The key success criteria are:

·        Potential to integrate into minerals processing existing circuits in place of a hydrocyclone cluster.  The material to be separated is transported around the site by conveyors and pipelines.

·        Can function in highly abrasive environments with sand, rocks, metals, water and saline all present.

·        Must be adaptable to different materials and to different particle size distributions – 0.05mm – 2mm.

·        Some flexibility during operation to allow for changing mine conditions – particle size distribution, flow rate etc.

Financial support may be available from the company itself or via public sector depending on how a resulting project is set up.

The company are looking for a concise abstract/executive summary that briefly describes the technical approach and provide information on technology performance, background and description of the responding team and their related experience. Please note that only non-confidential information can be accepted. The company has extensive experience of working and collaborating with other companies and research groups and has set a a deadline of 7th July for any proposals. The company will let respondents know if they would like to proceed with direct discussion/not by early August.

For further information, contact Craig Moir,