Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Agriculture; Engineering


Mining Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Rick Q. Honaker


There is a lack of fundamental studies by means of state of the art numerical and scale modeling techniques scrutinizing the theoretical and technical aspect of air table separators as well as means to comprehend and improve the efficiency of the process. The dissertation details the development of a workable empirical model, a numerical model and a scale model to demonstrate the use of a laboratory air table unit.

The modern air-based density separator achieves effective density-based separation for particle sizes greater than 6 mm. Parametric studies with the laboratory scale unit using low rank coal have demonstrated the applicability with regards to finer size fractions of the range 6 mm to 1 mm. The statistically significant empirical models showed that all the four parameters, i.e, blower and table frequency, longitudinal and transverse angle were significant in determining the separation performance. Furthermore, the tests show that an increase in the transverse angle increased the flow rate of solids to the product end and the introduction of feed results in the dampening of airflow at the feed end. The higher table frequency and feed rate had a detrimental effect on the product yield due to low residence time of particle settlement.

The research further evaluated fine particle upgrading using various modeling techniques. The numerical model was evaluated using K-Epsilon and RSM turbulence formulations and validated using experimental dataset. The results prove that the effect of fine coal vortices forming around the riffles act as a transport mechanism for higher density particle movement across the table deck resulting in 43% displacement of the midlings and 29% displacement of the heavies to the product side. The velocity and vector plots show high local variance of air speeds and pressure near the feed end and an increase in feed rate results in a drop in deshaling capability of the table.

The table was further evaluated using modern scale-modeling concepts and the scaling laws indicated that the vibration velocity has an integral effect on the separation performance. The difference between the full-scale model and the scaled prototype was 3.83% thus validating the scaling laws.