Precipitation Efficiency of Zinc Dust

It is generally realized that in cyaniding the precipitation efficiency of zinc dust is due to the fine division or extended surface of its metallic particles; but frequently it is thought that the presence of other metals, say2 to 3 percent, lead, is advantageous, causing more complete precipitation. The results of testing about fifty brands of commercial zinc dust have led to the conclusion that there is a distinct relation of precipitation efficiency to fineness and that the effect generally can be estimated by examining the size of metallic particles. The presence of lead was not found to be of any importance.


Generally the term “97 per cent, to pass a 350-mesh screen, 95 to 97 per cent, uncombined metallic zinc” is used by the leading European exporters. Among the many methods of determination of metallic zinc, I have found the iodine test (iodine in potassium iodide) very satisfactory and rapid. It has been controlled by the other methods, samples of the same product having been sent to three different analysts:

Iodine method………………………………………98.11 per cent, metallic zinc,
Volumetric method………….07.63 per cent, metallic zinc, Ledoux Co., New York
Bichromate method…………..98.16 per cent, metallic zinc, Wataon Gray, Liverpool, England
Bichromate method…………..98.20 per cent, metallic zinc, Norway Inst, of Tech., Trondhjem

Determination of Precipitation Efficiency

The method devised by W. J. Sharwood was used. The method proved to be satisfactory, the tests being merely for the comparison of different samples, hence the personal factor in manipulation was eliminated. As nearly all tests showed more zinc in solution than was accounted for by the silver precipitated, the term “dissolved zinc” was introduced—it means zinc dissolved by the action of cyanide and oxygen:

Zn + 4KCN + H20 + O = K2Zn(CN)4 + 2KOH;

or more probably, resolution of its equivalent precipitated silver, as tests stirred two hours showed more “dissolved zinc” than those stirred

one hour. To determine “dissolved zinc” the silver precipitate was dissolved in nitric acid, silver titrated with thiocyanate, and solution titrated with ferrocyanide (after removing silver precipitate) giving the amount of intact metallic zinc left in the zinc dust silver precipitate. The difference between active plus intact zinc and total metallic zinc is “dissolved zinc.”

Sources of Zinc Dust Tested

Samples 1 to 4 are American zinc dust; 6 to 8 are Norwegian, electrothermic fumed dust; 9 to 14 are from an electrothermic experimental plant; 15, origin is unknown, sample was furnished by Ste. Generale de Commerce & Exterieur, Paris; 16 is Belgian dust; 17, German; and 18, electrothermic blue powder (byproduct from electrothermic zinc smelting). Samples 4 and 5 were atomized, the other distilled.

Precipitation Efficiency as a Factor of Fineness

The microscopic examination showed that the distilled zinc dust consists of almost perfect spherules. The appearance is almost clean and metallic except in samples 16 and 17, where numerous particles of oxide are shown. The atomized dust (samples 4 and 5) has a coke-like surface and is very coarse; especially sample 5, which was made by a 100 lb. air pressure.

The number of spheres in a pound zinc dust, assuming the specific gravity as 7. is 0.1235/d³, hence

if the diameter is 1 mm., 1 lb. will contain 123,500 particles
if the diameter is 0.1 mm., 1 lb. will contain 1235 million particles
if the diameter is 0.01 mm., 1 lb. will contain 123,500 million particles
if the diameter is 0.003 mm., 1 lb. will contain 4600 billion particles

In sample 15, spherules of 0.003 mm. diameter were found to be pre-dominant, hence the number of particles in 1 lb. (89 per cent, metallic zinc) is 4600 billion X 0.89 = 4100 billion. In the precipitate was left 28 per cent, of the dust’s metallic zinc content, the diameter of remaining intact zinc spherules is then: 4100 billion = 0.1235/d³X 0.28 and d = 0.002 mm. The original spherule was 0.003 mm., hence the thickness of active surface is 0.0005 mm.

In sample 8, the major particles were of 0.004 mm. diameter. The number of particles in 1 lb., is 2000 billion. In the precipitate was left 43 per cent, of the metallic zinc, then the diameter of the intact particle is 2000 billion = 0.1235/d³X 0.43 and d = 0.003 mm. The thickness of active surface is 0.0005 mm. and so forth.

In the same manner, the efficiency of a zinc dust may be estimated on the basis of fineness as:

The diameter examined being 0.002 mm., the efficiency is 88 per cent.
The diameter examined being 0.003 mm., the efficiency is 70.3 per cent.
The diameter examined being 0.004 mm., efficiency is 58.0 per cent.
The diameter examined being 0.008 mm., efficiency is 33.2 per cent.
The diameter examined being 0.01 mm., efficiency is 27.0 per cent.
The diameter examined being 0.03 mm., efficiency is 9.7 per cent.
The diameter examined being 0.07 mm., efficiency is 3.5 per cent.
To get a fair comparison between the found efficiencies and those from fineness estimated values, it is necessary to eliminate what is called “dissolved” zinc. This is possible by figuring the precipitation efficiency from the difference of metallic zinc left in precipitate; which is here called “true efficiency.”

From the foregoing data there is little doubt as to what role fineness is playing. The consumer frequently calls for high content of metallic zinc, but mostly he buys in accord with the efficiency obtained in practical running. The producer should, therefore, direct his attention to improving the fineness—under maintenance of the highest content of metallic zinc—until it becomes really fume.


G. M. Brown, New York, N. Y.—Andre Dorfmann of the Mclntyre Porcupine Mine made a similar test, some years ago, relative to consumption of zinc and the results he obtained confirm the statements in this paper. In addition to the amount of zinc left in the precipitation presses, he determined the amount of zinc in the barren solution. As this solution was recirculated through the system, he also determined the amount of zinc precipitated from solution, in the ball-mill, tube-mill and agitators, before the solution was again returned to the precipitation presses.

Charles E. Locke, Cambridge, Mass.—The thing which struck me in looking through the table is that the maximum figure is about 60 per cent, efficiency, when based on the metallic zinc content, and the ordinary efficiency, if I interpret it correctly, ranges from a maximum of 57 per cent, with the finest dust down to 6 per cent, with some rather coarse samples of zinc dust.