With simple structure, excellent reliability, low cost, no restriction at depth of water, and easy control and operation, airlift pumps have special advantage in borehole hydraulic jet mining, river dredging and deep sea mining. To clarify the mechanism and process of action of air injection methods on air lift performance, and to enhance lifting capacity, the pump performance of a small airlift system in transporting river sands is investigated experimentally in the present study. The results are as the follows. The influences of air exit ports on water volume flow rate, mass flow rate of solids and lifting efficiency are studied and found to be very low when the number of air exit ports exceeds 3. The pump design show best pumping capability for water and solids at higher air flow rates, but the lifting efficiency is then very low. In addition, a dimensionless equation which describes the flows in the pipe is presented based on the Bernoulli equation, and compared with measurement results in the dimensionless form, which are nearly in good agreement with each other for all the arrangements of air exit ports and are basically contained within ±18% of the theoretical curve. The results are important for understanding the mechanism of airlift pumps and enriching multiphase flow theory.

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