Editorial Feature

How are Viscosity Modifiers Used in Mining?

This article was updated on 15th April 2020.

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To understand how viscosity modifiers are used in mining, it is important to understand what they are used for. Viscosity modifiers are chemical indicators used to limit a lubricant’s change in viscosity when there are temperature changes. The viscosity index is a technique used to measure a liquid’s change of viscosity in relation to temperature - viscosity modifiers are the additives that improve the viscosity of liquids during external influence.

These modifiers can reconstruct the flow of fluid properties and also alter the suspensions of solids in liquids. Once viscosity modifiers have changed the interactivity between solid particles in suspension, the digression from Newtonian behavior can increase or decrease. Often, viscosity modifiers are integral ingredients in engine oil, therefore its selection is something to carefully examine when producing usable and efficient engine lubricants.

As polymeric molecules, viscosity modifiers are sensitive to temperature, and at low temperatures the liquid’s viscosity is unaffected. However, at high temperatures, the molecule chain loosens and the viscosity increases. As temperature increases, the viscosity decreases and modifiers wind down the pace at which viscosity decreases.

Viscosity modifiers are said to be able to improve water recovery, mitigate long term expenses, improve production, and help extend the lifespan of other equipment.

How Are They Used?

Commonly, viscosity modifiers are used in mining to produce higher flow rates. Most effectively, drag reduction of large suspensions while using sodium tripolyphosphate is used - this allows thicker consistencies to flow at the pace of a comparably thinner fluid. Sodium tripolyphosphate aids in the decrease of particle interactivity by changing the surface charge, ultimately limiting the suspension’s yield.

A major drawback to enabling viscosity modifiers is their cost, this tends to hinder their application and accessibility. On the contrary, some situations can financially benefit from the long term use of viscosity modifiers, especially in a chemically controlled scenario.

In addition to being used in engine oils, viscosity modifiers are also implemented in gear oils, automatic transmission fluids, hydraulic liquids, and steering fluids. The reason for all of these being automobile-related is due to the frequent temperature changes vehicles undergo.

Viscosity Modifiers in Mining

Despite the many automobile applications of viscosity modifiers, they are additionally used in mining in order to change the flow properties of mineral slurries. By application of viscosity modifiers, miners can identify the challenges and processes that they need to alter, as well as monitor surrounding parameters being influenced by this structure.

Viscosity modifiers are able to cut back costs for large-scale or long distance mining jobs. The energy needed to make the slurry mobile or efficient can be financially taxing and extremely laborious; however, the implementation of these modifiers reduces the immobile properties of the slurry, speeding up the flow’s distance. For certain materials, their sourcing point and end destination can be hundreds of miles apart.

Companies that create mining materials will often generate a viscosity modifier that uses dispersants based on the specific pumping process - there are particular ore types for each mining job.


Essentially, viscosity modifiers play a role similar to a lubricant in which their job is to decrease the friction between moving liquids - allowing for a more efficient fluid flow in mining. A viscosity that is too low can represent increased wear from metal-to-metal contact and inadequate metal surface separation; contrary to this, a viscosity that is too high can exhibit equally high frictional losses in mixing the viscous liquid, as well as an inefficient lubricant flow.

Due to temperature playing such a major role in oil viscosity, it is important to have improvers like viscosity modifiers. Their ability to withstand change during temperature fluctuation, as well as time sufficiency and long-term benefits, make them a useful method in mining.

References and Further Reading

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Sydney Luntz

Written by

Sydney Luntz

Since graduating from the University of York with a BA Hons. in English Literature and Linguistics, Sydney has spent her time interning and freelancing before attending University of Arts College London in the fall, to complete a Master's in Data Journalism. In her spare time, you can catch Sydney reading a book, at a concert, or wandering a gallery!


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