Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Prof. Graeme Jameson: Fellow of the Royal Society

More wonderful news from Australia this week, with the announcement that Prof. Graeme Jameson, Laureate Professor at the University of Newcastle, Australia, has been honoured by one of the most prestigious organisations in the world, the Royal Society, which boasts a fellowship of 1,600 of the world’s most eminent scientists. Fellow of the Royal Society, a rare and distinguished honour, is decided by a peer-review process based on excellence in science, and this was bestowed on Prof. Jameson for his work on fluid and particle mechanics, and especially the flotation process. Graeme joins scientists of the calibre of the late Stephen Hawking, and a galaxy of renowned scientists such as Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and Tim Burners-Lee, the inventor of the internet.
The MEI team are proud to have known Prof. Graeme Jameson for many years. He has presented research papers at all MEI’s Flotation conferences and was a keynote lecturer at Flotation ’09.

Graeme (3rd left) at Flotation '17
He is a long-standing member of the Editorial Board of Minerals Engineering and is the recipient of many major awards, including the Australian Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.  In 2016 he was the recipient of the IMPC's Lifetime Achievement Award.

I was pleased to nominate him for International Mining’s Hall of Fame, into which he was inaugurated in 2014.
In 2013 he was awarded the SME’s prestigious Antoine Gaudin Award in Denver.

At Flotation '15 with previous Gaudin Award winners,
Janusz Laskowski, Nag Nagaraj and Jim Finch
In 2005 he was recognised in the Australian Queen's Birthday honours list, being made Officer of the Order of Australia,  "for service to engineering, science, industry and the environment as an inventor and through contributions in the fields of fluid and particle mechanics, mineral processing, water and wastewater treatment and particle technology.” In the same year he was made Laureate Professor of the University of Newcastle, Australia, recognising his many contributions to research and his international standing in the field. He was the first person to receive the award, which is reserved only for a small number of outstanding researchers. He remains the Director of the Centre for Multiphase Processes in the University. Other accolades include the CSIRO Medal and being recognised as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences, the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK and the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences.
Professor Graeme Jameson's contribution to the Australian economy and the environment as the inventor of what is considered by many to be the nation's biggest export earner in the last 25 years, has earned him gold status within the minerals industry. The Jameson Cell has netted Australia more than A$40 billion in exports.  With over 300 cells now in operation across 25 countries, the Cell is being used for copper, coal, zinc, nickel, lead, silver and platinum extraction world-wide.  In the true mark of a scientist, 30 years on from his initial breakthrough discovery, Prof Jameson is still fine-tuning and improving the Jameson Cell, and pushing the boundaries of flotation with his new invention the NovaCell.
Graeme's reputation for commitment to an issue was formed early in his career and cemented during his early years at the University of New South Wales, where he had his first close look at flotation working part-time at a tin smelter while he undertook his engineering degree. The company had a flotation machine with which valuable metals had been recovered and used to make bearings for the war effort. In his final undergraduate year, he undertook a project on the unusual properties of bubbles, and then when he went to Cambridge University to do his PhD, it seemed almost a natural progression that he would end up under the supervision of Professor John Davidson, one of the world’s most eminent bubble scientists.
After completing his doctorate and working for two years in the oil industry in California, Graeme went back to academia at Imperial College, London in the mid-60s. A colleague suggested he look at the problem of the recovery of fine mineral particles using flotation. Not only did it fit with his prior research, but Graeme also recognised its particular application to the Australian mining industry. In deposits such as at Mount Isa, the material being mined, while of high quality, was increasingly finely dispersed, and many of the particles were too small to be picked up by flotation technology of the time where the bubbles were about 3 mm in diameter.
By the time he returned to Australia in the late 70s, after more than a decade of work in London, Graeme knew he had a solution. The bubbles needed to be much smaller, about 10 times smaller, and they also needed to be produced at a rate of billions per second. All he had to do was find a way to generate them. It was his former supervisor, John Davidson, who inadvertently provided the answer, publishing a paper that included an equation which allowed one to predict the size of bubbles generated under prescribed liquid conditions. On the basis of this work, it turned out that a key factor was the shear rate, and a suitable shear rate for Graeme’s purposes could be established when a jet of liquid plunged into the container to form the froth, and this became the heart of the Jameson Cell. A jet of a slurry of mineral particles, together with air it draws in, is injected from the top of the cell through a large nozzle, the downcomer. The result is the production of a turbulent cloud of billions of small bubbles about 0.3 mm in diameter in the cell beneath.
But the invention of innovative technology is only part of any story of commercialisation, it is usually tougher persuading companies to invest the vast amounts of money needed to buy and install new technology. Luckily, in the mid-80s, Mount Isa Mines had a team of highly-qualified and talented research metallurgists who were prepared to look at, and actively help test Jameson’s new cell, which is now marketed by Flotation '19 sponsor Glencore Technology. The advantages of the Jameson Cell include the fact that it recovers 95 to 98 per cent of fine particles between 0.05 and 0.12 mm in diameter. There are no moving parts in the cell itself, which means that it can be made tough and involves relatively low maintenance, very important to an industry in which the workplaces are often in remote and harsh environments. The only energy used in the Jameson Cell is the electricity to pump in the slurry jet, and the efficiency of the system is such that fewer cells are needed to do the same job as previously. Not only that, but the technology is relatively inexpensive, with a short payback time, and is easily scaled up.
Mount Isa Mines soon found other applications, primarily at its coal mines where the Jameson Cell could scavenge the high quality fine particles of coal, increasing the yield of mines overnight by 3.5 per cent or billions of dollars. But that has only been the beginning. As the technology has been improved by Graeme, his students and others, it has also found application in Canada extracting bitumen from oil sands, along the Dead Sea recovering potash, and in Australia, cleaning up waste water and removing suspended solids in the food and wine industries.
But Graeme thinks his new technology to capture coarser particles, the NovaCell, is much more important. The two great costs of base metal mining are those of extraction and of concentration. Each runs at about 43 per cent of the total. All the other expenses, transportation, taxes, royalties, only amount to 14 per cent. And for mining and concentration, by far the greatest cost is in energy. Most of the energy expended in concentrating the ore goes in grinding it to the necessary particle size for flotation. If that particle size could be made larger, less grinding is needed, using less energy and resulting in less wear and tear on the grinding equipment. In fact, Graeme estimates that his NovaCell can reduce overall mining costs by between 10 and 15 per cent.  Once again, the solution was relatively simple. The problem with large particles is that they are often torn off the bubbles to which they attach by the turbulent mixing established in the Jameson Cell. The solution is a gentler action to generate and agitate the bubbles. It can be achieved by filling a container with mineral particles and bubbling water and fine bubbles gently up from the bottom in the process which creates a kind of liquid, a fluidised bed. So, once again, Graeme Jameson has the answer. The next step will be commercialisation, convincing industry to adopt his new technology.
Prof. Graeme Jameson is a true inspiration and innovator, and we look forward to his ever continuing presence at MEI's flotation conferences.

Twitter @barrywills


  1. What a Great, Golden News; many congratulations to Prof.Graeme Jameson.
    Sir, your work has many facets but let mineral engn take pride that what you achieved sets a very high bar for the young generation of mimeral engineers.
    I personally feel proud thar we had a Jameson cell and many of my students worked on that unit.
    Congrats again and you made all of us proud and humble.

  2. Great News! Congratulations to Prof.Graeme Jameson.

    DMR Sekhar

  3. It's an honour for the mineral engineering profession and all mineral engineering professionals that one of us has been bestowed with the highest honour in the world. I feel and share the pride!


If you have difficulty posting a comment, please email the comment, and any photos that you might like to add, to bwills@min-eng.com and I will submit on your behalf