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Geomechanics and Engineering
  Volume 4, Number 4, December 2012, pages 281-294

Properties of Hand-made Clay Balls used as a Novel Filter Media
J.P. Rajapakse, G. Madabhushi, R. Fenner and C. Gallage

    Filtration using granular media such as quarried sand, anthracite and granular activated carbon is a well-known technique used in both water and wastewater treatment. A relatively new prefiltration method called pebble matrix filtration (PMF) technology has been proved effective in treating high turbidity water during heavy rain periods that occur in many parts of the world. Sand and pebbles are the principal filter media used in PMF laboratory and pilot field trials conducted in the UK, Papua New Guinea and Serbia. However during first full-scale trials at a water treatment plant in Sri Lanka in 2008, problems were encountered in sourcing the required uniform size and shape of pebbles due to cost, scarcity and Government regulations on pebble dredging. As an alternative to pebbles, hand-made clay pebbles (balls) were fired in a kiln and their performance evaluated for the sustainability of the PMF system. These clay balls within a filter bed are subjected to stresses due to self-weight and overburden, therefore, it is important that clay balls should be able to withstand these stresses in water saturated conditions. In this paper, experimentally determined physical properties including compression failure load (Uniaxial Compressive Strength) and tensile strength at failure (theoretical) of hand-made clay balls are described. Hand-made clay balls fired between the kiln temperatures of 875oC to 960oC gave failure loads of between 3.0 kN and 7.1 kN. In another test when clay balls were fired to 1250oC the failure load was 35.0 kN compared to natural Scottish cobbles with an average failure load of 29.5 kN. The uniaxial compressive strength of clay balls obtained by experiment has been presented in terms of the tensile yield stress of clay balls. Based on the effective stress principle in soil mechanics, a method for the estimation of maximum theoretical load on clay balls used as filter media is proposed and compared with experimental failure loads.
Key Words
    filter media; hand-made clay balls; firing temperature; compressive strength.
J.P. Rajapakse and C. Gallage : Science and Engineering Faculty, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
G. Madabhushi and R. Fenner : Department of Engineering, Cambridge University, UK

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