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Settling is the process by which particulates settle to the bottom of a liquid and form a sediment. Particles that experience a force, either due to gravity or due to centrifugal motion will tend to move in a uniform manner in the direction exerted by that force. For gravity settling, this means that the particles will tend to fall to the bottom of the vessel, forming a slurry at the vessel base.
For settling particles that are considered individually, i.e. dilute particle solutions, there are two main forces enacting upon any particle. The primary force is an applied force, such as gravity, and a drag force that is due to the motion of the particle through the fluid. The applied force is usually not affected by the particle's velocity, whereas the drag force is a function of the particle velocity.
For a particle at rest no drag force will be exhibited, which causes the particle to accelerate due to the applied force. When the particle accelerates, the drag force acts in the direction opposite to the particle's motion, retarding further acceleration, in the absence of other forces drag directly opposes the applied force. As the particle increases in velocity eventually the drag force and the applied force will approximately equate, causing no further change in the particle's velocity. This velocity is known as the terminal velocity, settling velocity or fall velocity of the particle. This is readily measurable by examining the rate of fall of individual particles.
The terminal velocity of the particle is affected by many parameters, i.e. anything that will alter the particle's drag. Hence the terminal velocity is most notably dependent upon grain size, the shape (roundness and sphericity) and density of the grains, as well as to the viscosity and density of the fluid.
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