Use of evaporative coolers for close circuiting of the electroplating process
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The South African electroplating industry generates large volumes of hazardous waste water that has to be treated prior to disposal. The main source of this waste water has been the rinse system. Conventional end-ofpipe waste water treatment technologies do not meet municipality standards. The use of technologies such as membranes, reverse osmosis and ion exchange are impractical, mainly due to their cost and technical requirements. This study identified source point reduction technologies, close circuiting of the electroplating process, specific to the rinse system as a key development. Specifically the application of a low flow counter current rinse system for the recovery of the rinse water in the plating bath was selected. However, the recovery of the rinse tank water was impeded by the low rates of evaporation from the plating bath, which was especially prevalent in the low temperature operating plating baths. This master’s study proposes the use of an induced draft evaporative cooling tower for facilitation of evaporation in the plating bath. For total recovery of the rinse tank water, the rate of evaporation from the plating bath has to be equivalent to the rinse tanks make up water requirements. A closed circuit plating system mathematical model was developed for the determination of the mass evaporated from the plating bath and the cooling tower for a specified time and the equilibrium temperature of the plating bath and the cooling tower. The key criteria in the development of the closed circuit plating system model was the requirement of minimum solution specific data as this information is not readily available. The closed circuit plating system model was categorised into the unsteady state and steady state temperature regions and was developed for the condition of water evaporation only. The closed circuit plating system model was programmed into Matlab and verified. The key factors affecting the performance of the closed circuit plating system were identified as the plating solution composition and operational temperature, ambient air temperature, air flow rate and cooling tower iv packing surface area. Each of these factors was individually and simultaneously varied to determine their sensitivity on the rate of water evaporation and the equilibrium temperature of the plating bath and cooling tower. The results indicated that the upper limit plating solution operational temperature, high air flow rates, low ambient air temperature and large packing surface area provided the greatest water evaporation rates and the largest temperature drop across the height of the cooling tower in the unsteady state temperature region. The final equilibrium temperature of the plating bath and the cooling tower is dependent on the ambient air temperature. The only exception is that at low ambient air temperatures the rate of water evaporation from the steady state temperature region is lower than that at higher ambient air temperatures. Thus the model will enable the electroplater to identify the optimum operating conditions for close circuiting of the electroplating process. It is recommended that the model be validated against practical data either by the construction of a laboratory scale induced draft evaporative cooling tower or by the application of the induced draft evaporative cooling tower in an electroplating facility.