Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering, Vol.78, No.1, 102-110, 2000
Fluidized state gelation of ceramic microspheres: Feasibility study of a continuous process and analysis of the chemical dehydration phenomena
A continuous gelation process for producing aluminum and zirconium hydroxide microparticles was conceived and tested in a lab-scale apparatus, Fluidized state was devised as an appropriate hydrodynamic configuration to maintain the reacting sol microdrops suspended: stable non-coalescing spherical gel particles in a size range quite below 100 mu m were produced via gelation. The microspheres produced by a subsequent calcination step showed a diameter ranging between 2 mu m and 20 mu m. This powder, without further size classification, was an optimal product to manufacture test specimens by sintering. Measurements on the mechanical properties, such as toughness, flexural strength and hardness, classified the test bars as a very promising ceramic material. In order to enlighten the chemical drying phenomenon and devise the main governing mechanisms acting in the gelation reaction, an extremely simplified experimental system was set. A single drop of sol was deposited into a given amount of the dehydrating liquid medium and observed by an optical microscope; image analysis permitted us to identify the gel formation, the size reduction kinetics, as well as secondary phenomena.