Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Chemical Engineering (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Chemical Engineering

Advisor 1

Surendra K Kawatra

Committee Member 1

Timothy C Eisele

Committee Member 2

Tony N Rogers

Committee Member 3

Stephen L Kampe


Iron ore pellets are hard spheres made from powdered ore and binders. Pellets are used to make iron, mainly in blast furnaces. Around the time that the pelletizing process was developed, starch was proposed as a binder because it’s viscous, adheres well to iron oxides, does not contaminate pellets and is relatively cheap. In practice, however, starch leads to weak pellets with rough surfaces – these increase the amount of dust generated within process equipment and during pellet shipping and handling. Thus, even though the usual binder (bentonite clay) contaminates pellets, pelletizers prefer it to starch or other organics.

This dissertation describes three ways to make good starch-based binders for pellets. Importantly, they solve the usual problems of weak rough pellets and lots of dust. The three approaches are:

(1) Addition of clay to starch. This is not a novel idea. In fact, it is the standard method used for their improvement. However, it has not been tested extensively with starch. This approach was expected to be – and indeed was – successful.

(2) Addition of a clay-rich layer to green ball surfaces. This approach is a novel idea. The coating's purpose was to mimic the good surface properties of standard bentonite-clay bonded pellets; as a benefit, clay consumption was significantly reduced. This approach was successful.

(3) Addition of dispersants to starch. This approach is a novel idea. The intent of the dispersants was to enable pelletization to occur at lower moisture contents, thus leading to denser particle packing and lower porosity. The dispersants resulted in significantly stronger, smoother pellets without contaminating them with silica.

Using approaches 1 and 3, starch can be used directly in traditional pelletizing operations, and importantly, in new pelletizing processes for new iron making operations. For approach 2, new application methods must be developed.

Future engineering work is suggested as follows: design better dispersants for magnetic magnetite ores; incorporate the dispersing agent and starch into bead form for easy use; design a simple way to add coatings in existing drum-based pelletizing circuits; and optimize the coating composition to decrease both abrasion losses and pellet clustering (for new Direct Reduction pellets).