The purpose of this paper is to establish a relation between a few measurable quantities (the so-called zeta potential, organic matter content, and shear rate) and the flocculation behavior of mud. The results obtained with small-scale flocculation experiments (mixing jar) are compared to results of large-scale experiments (settling column). The mud used for all experiments has been collected in October 2007 in the lower Western Schelde, near Antwerp, Belgium. From this study, it was found that the mean floc size and the Kolmogorov microscale vary in a similar way with the shear rate for suspensions with different pH and salt concentrations. The size of flocs at a given shear rate depends on the properties of the suspension, which affect the electrokinetic properties of the sediment; these can be described by means of the zeta potential. The main findings of this paper are: (1) In saline suspensions at pH = 8, the mean floc size increases when the salt concentration and the zeta potential increase. (2) For a given zeta potential, the mean floc size at low pH is larger than observed at pH = 8 for any added salt. (3) The mean floc size increases with increasing organic matter content. (4) Mud with no organic matter at pH = 8 and no added salt flocculates very little. The response of mud suspensions to variations in salinity and pH is similar to that of kaolinite. This suggests that a general trend can be established for different and complex types of clays and mud. This systematic study can therefore be used for further development of flocculation models.
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