Coal beneficiation is achieved by suspending coal fines in a colloidal suspension of microscopic gas bubbles in water under atmospheric conditions to form small agglomerates of the fines adhered by the gas bubbles. The agglomerates are separated, recovered and resuspended in water. Thereafter, the pressure on the suspension is increased above atmospheric to deagglomerate, since the gas bubbles are then re-dissolved in the water. During the deagglomeration step, the mineral matter is dispersed, and when the pressure is released, the coal portion of the deagglomerated gas-saturated water mixture reagglomerates, with the small bubbles now coming out of the solution. The reagglomerate can then be separated to provide purified coal fines without the mineral matter.
The research for the invention described herein was funded in part by a Department of Energy grant, DE-FG-26-97FT97261. As a result, the government may have certain rights in this invention.