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EFFECT OF MOISTURE CONTENT AND

PARTICLE SIZE ON BULK DENSITY,


POROSITY, PARTICLE DENSITY AND
COEFFICIENT OF FRICTION OF COIR
PITH
Dr.I.Neethi Manickam
Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, National Engineering College, Kovilpatti-
628 503, India,

S.R.Suresh,
Lecturer, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Lord J egannath College of Engineering and Technology,
Ramanathichanputhur, Kanyakumari
Abstract
Coir pith can be used as fuel in loose form or in briquettes. Bulk density, coefficient of friction,
porosity and particle density affects densification and combustion of coir pith. The moisture content and
particle size ranges were 10.1 to 60.2%w.b. and 0.098 to 0.925mm respectively. Porosity was varied from
0.623 to 0.862 and the particle density was varied from 0.939 to 0.605 gm/cc for the above ranges of moisture
content and particle size. Bulk density was in the range of 0.097 to 0.341gm/cc. The coefficient of friction
against mild steel was in the range of 0.5043 to 0.6332. Models were developed to find out bulk density,
porosity, particle density and coefficient of friction for different moisture content and particle size.

Key words: moisture content, particle size, bulk density, porosity, particle density, coefficient of friction.
1. Introduction
With regard to energy shortage and environmental issues, it is widely accepted that renewable energy will
play a major role in the foreseeing year. One of the most important energy resources, particularly for developing
countries, is biomass. It has been reported that over 33 percent of energy consumption for developing countries can
be supplied from this kind of energy resource [1], [2]. Moreover, its photosynthesis process will compensate the
carbon dioxide generated during biomass energy conversion. Thus, nearly zero net gain carbon dioxide can be
obtained from this process. Agricultural residues account for the largest amount available worldwide. Hence, for
developing and agricultural-based countries, the utilization of the residues from agricultural sectors as primary or
secondary sources of energy is considerably attractive. The production of agricultural crop residues in India is
estimated over 1300 million tones per year, compared to about 1400 million tones of firewood. Out of which, the
generation of potential energy from the biomass is estimated to be in the order of 1.57 x 10
12
MJ /year and 1.51 x
10
12
MJ /year respectively from the crop residues and the firewood [3]. The residues are available as a free,
indigenous and environmentally friendly energy resource. It is observed that several kinds of agricultural residues
are available and ready to be utilized as fuels. One of such agricultural waste material is coir pith. The pith material
forming non-fibrous tissues of the coconut husk is generally referred to as coir pith and also coco-peat [4]. It is a
spongy material obtained during the process of extracting fiber from coconut husks. It is also a hydrophilic material,
which means that moisture spreads readily over these surfaces. When first produced, coir pith is a light tan color but
darkens with age to a chocolate brown.
The husk accounts for about 50 to 60 percent of the total weight of the nut and 70 percent of the husk
constitute the coir pith. Coir pith obtained from the retted process consists of low lingo-cellulostic material
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ISSN : 0975-5462 Vol. 3 No. 4 April 2011 2596


compared to the pith from the un-retted mechanical process [5]. According to Arumugham and Dhamodaran [6]
there are about 84,000 retting and coir extracting units in Kerala producing white fiber. There are about 500 coir
factories in Tamilnadu for mechanical extraction of coir fiber [7]. Considerable amount of coir pith in the order of
7.5 million tonne are produced annually in India and accumulated in the coir industrial yard causing environmental
pollution and disposal problem [8]. Therefore attempts are being made to convert this waste material into useful
products.

2. Materials and Methods
The coir pith available from coir industries are in loose form with high moisture content and at different
particle sizes. The moisture content and particle size play an important role during the formation of briquettes. The
experiments were conducted with the coir pith obtained from different coir fiber industries located around Tenkasi,
Tamilnadu. The coir pith were dried and sieved into different particle size. Certain amount of coir pith from
different particle sizes at different moisture level was taken as the sample.

2.1 Determination of Moisture Content
The moisture content of the material was investigated by adapting the ASAE S358.2 DEC99 moisture
measurement method. 30 gram of coir pith was taken as a representative sample. The weight of the sample and
container was evaluated by using an electronic balance. Next, the sample was dried in a laboratory oven cabinet at
103
o
C for 24 h. After the removal, the material and its container were placed in desiccators to cool down to room
temperature. The sample was then re-weighed in order to calculate its moisture content.

2.2 Determination of Particle Size
The knowledge about the average particle size and their distribution facilitate the selection of desired
densification process. Depending upon the presence of quantity of different particle size the densification of coir pith
can be undertaken as such without any further size reduction in order to form stable briquettes.
Sieve analysis is the most common method used for analyzing the particle size in the range of 0.075 to
3.00 mm approximately [9]. Since the particle size of coir pith lies within this range, differential sieve analysis
method was used. In the differential sieve analysis, the assumption is made that all the particles in a single fraction
are equal in size and that the size is the arithmetical mean of the mesh dimensions of the two screens that define the
fraction.
A vibratory type mechanical sieve shaker was used for determining the coir pith particle size. Certain
amount of coir pith was placed on the top sieve and shaken for 20 min. by that time the coir pith on the smallest
sieve reached equilibrium. The fractions retained on all sieves were weighed.

2.3 Determination of Porosity
Porosity is defined as the ratio of the volume of voids to the total volume (voids plus solid). The porosity of
the coir pith was determined by pressure bottle method [10] and the apparatus used for this purpose is shown in
Fig1. The bottle-1 was completely filled with the coir pith of particular particle size. The valves 2, 3 and 4 were
closed. By opening the valve-1 air was blown into the bottle-2 and the valve-1 was closed. The air pressure inside
the bottle-2 was measured by U tube manometer fitted to this experimental set up by opening the valve-2 and the
value is noted as P
1
. Then the valve-4 was opened and sufficient time was allowed for the air in bottle-2 to fill the
porous space available in bottle-1. Now the pressure shown by the manometer was noted as P
2
. The porosity (P
o
)
was calculated by the following equation.
P
o
=(P
1
-

P
2
) /

P
2
(1)
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2.4 Determination of Bulk Density
Bulk density of coir pith was determined by gently filling in a cylindrical jar of known volume with the
material and weighed. The knowledge of bulk density will be useful while handling the material from the coir
industries to the processing units and also for the compaction process.

2.5 Determination of Particle Density
The particle density of the coir pith at various moisture levels and particle sizes were calculated from the
values of bulk density and porosity using the following equation.
Particle density =Bulk Density / (1 Porosity) (2)

2.6. Determination of Coefficient of Friction
The coefficient of friction of coir pith was found out by placing the coir pith in a bottomless container and
pulled against the required surface. This method is commonly used for determination of coefficient of friction of
coarse, powdered and grain particles [10]. The experimental set up is shown in Fig.2. The same experimental set up
was used by Sreenarayanan et al., 1988for soyabean [13]. The coir pith particles sieved into uniform size are filled
in the bottom less container and a known weight was placed over the sample. Weight was added over the pan.
When certain weight was added the container was started to move. The ratio of the pulling force to the normal force
(weight of coir pith +dead weight added) gives the coefficient of friction of particle against the material being used.
In this experiment mild steel was used because normally in briquettes manufacturing machine the components are
made up of mild steel.

Fig.2. Experimental set up for determining coefficient of friction
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3. Results and Discussion
3.1 Effect of Moisture Content and Particle Size on Bulk Density of Coir Pith
The bulk density of the coir pith of different particle sizes under different levels of moisture content is
shown graphically in Fig.3. It was seen that the bulk density increased with increase in moisture content and
decrease with increase in particle size. Sreenarayanan [11] reported that the bulk density was increasing with
increase in moisture content for rice bran. When the particle size of coir pith was reduced to a lower level its
porosity decreased and hence the bulk density of the coir pith was increasing with decrease in particle size. A
relationship between the bulk density of coir pith, the moisture content and particle size was developed and
furnished below. The correlation coefficient for the proposed model (R
2
value =0.9314) indicates that the model has
good fit.
B
d
=0.1752 x 1.0107
M
x 0.4474
P
(3)
where B
d
=Bulk Density in gm/cc
M =Moisture Content in %w.b.
P =Particle Size in mm
0.00
0.05
0.10
0.15
0.20
0.25
0.30
0.35
0.40
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70
Moisture Content % (w.b.)
B
u
l
k

D
e
n
s
i
t
y

(
g
m
/
c
c
)
0.925 0.39 0.231 0.098 0.655
Particle Size, mm

Fig.3. Effect of Moisture Content and Particle Size on Bulk Density of Coir Pith.
3.2 Effect of Moisture Content and Particle Size on Porosity of Coir Pith
The porosity of coir pith of different particle sizes under different levels of moisture content is shown
graphically in Fig.4. It was seen that the porosity of the coir pith was higher as the particle sizes increased and
decreased with increase in moisture content. Viswanathan et al. [12] reported similar results for minor millet grains.
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0.6
0.65
0.7
0.75
0.8
0.85
0.9
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70
Moisture Content %w.b.
Particle Size mm
P
o
r
o
s
i
t
y
0.925 0.655 0.39 0.231 0.098

Fig.4. Effect of MoistureContent and ParticleSizeon Porosity of Coir Pith.
A relationship between the porosity of coir pith, the moisture content and particle size was developed and
furnished below. The correlation coefficient for the proposed model (R
2
value =0.9214) indicates that the model has
good fit.
P
o
=0.0841 P 0.0029 M +0.8205 (4)
where P
o
=Porosity
M =Moisture Content in %w.b.
P =Particle Size in mm

3.3 Effect of Moisture Content and Particle Size on Particle Density of Coir Pith
The particle density of coir pith of different particle sizes under different levels of moisture content is
shown graphically in Fig.5. It was seen that the particle density of the coir pith was higher as the particle sizes
decreased and decreased with increase in moisture content. A similar trend was observed by Sreenarayanan[11] for
rice bran particles.
A relationship between the particle density of coir pith, the moisture content and particle size was
developed and furnished below. The correlation coefficient for the proposed model (R
2
value =0.9068) indicates
that the model has good fit.
P
d
=0.9490 x 0.9989
M
x 0.6352
P
(5)
where P
d
=Particle Density gm/cc
M =Moisture Content in %w.b.
P =Particle Size in mm
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0.55
0.60
0.65
0.70
0.75
0.80
0.85
0.90
0.95
1.00
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70
Moisture Content % w.b.
Particle Size mm
P
a
r
t
i
c
l
e

D
e
n
s
i
t
y

g
m
/
c
c
0.925 0.655 0.39 0.231 0.098

Fig.5. Effect of Moisture Content and Particle Size on Particle Density of Coir Pith.
3.4. Effect of Moisture Content and Particle Size on Coefficient of Friction
The coefficient of friction of coir pith against mild steel was found out for different particle sizes and
moisture content and plotted as shown in the Fig.6. It was found that the coefficient of friction of coir pith particles
against mild steel was decrease when its moisture content was increased. As the moisture content increased the
viscosity of the particle increased resulting in reduction of coefficient of friction irrespective of the particle size.
When the particle size was reduced, the frictional coefficient also reduced. This behavior may be due to the
reduction of pore space inside the particle heap as the particle sizes were reduced.
A relationship between the static coefficient of friction of coir pith, the moisture content and particle size
was developed and furnished below. The correlation coefficient for the proposed model (R
2
value =0.9497)
indicates that the model has good fit.
C
f
=0.1199 P 0.0007 M +0.5231 (6)
where C
f
=Coefficient of Friction
M =Moisture Content in %w.b.
P =Particle Size in mm
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0.5
0.52
0.54
0.56
0.58
0.6
0.62
0.64
0.66
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70
Moisture Content %w.b.
Particle Size mm
C
o
e
f
f
i
c
i
e
n
t

o
f

F
r
i
c
t
i
o
n
0.925 0.655 0.39 0.231 0.098

Fig.6. Effect of Moisture Content and Particle Size on Coefficient of Friction of Coir Pith.
4. Conclusion
The experimental results show that the bulk density increased with increase in moisture content
and decrease with increase in particle size. The porosity of coir pith decreases with increase in moisture content and
increases with increase in particle size. It was seen that the particle density of the coir pith was higher as the particle
sizes decreased and decreased with increase in moisture content. The coefficient of friction of coir pith against mild
steel was decreased when its moisture content was increased irrespective of the particle size. When the particle size
was reduced, the frictional coefficient also reduced.

5. References
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[2] Hall D, House J . Biomass: a modern and environmentally acceptable fuel, Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells, vol. 39, pp. 521-542,
1995.
[3] Srivastava, PK, Tomar. SS, Advances in Biomass Utilization, Agricultural Engineering Today, vol. 17, pp. 1-19, 1993.
[4] Bhowmic BB, Debnath CR. Coir fiber Part II- Potentiality of coir fiber products, Indian Coconut J ournal; vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 7-10, 1985.
[5] Sathyanarayana KG, Mohendar PN, Pillai CKS, Pavithran C. Characteristic action and utilization of coconut tree based materials, Indian
coconut J ournal, vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 18-20, 1984.
[6] Arumugam C, Dhamodharan AD. Coconut based coir industry in India. In: Nair MK, editor. Advances in coconut research and
development, New Delhi, India: Oxford 7 IBH publishing co. pvt. Ltd.; 1993, pp. 633-640.
[7] Kamaraj CM. Use of coir pith as peat in commercial line and export opportunities. In: workshop on utilization of coir pith, Coir board,
Govt. of India, Cochin, Kerala; 1993, pp. 51-55.
[8] Kamaraj CM. Exportable coir products in Tamilnadu, The coconut wealth, vol. 1 No. 6, pp. 6-8. 1994.
[9] Handerson SM, Perry RL. Agricultural process Engineering. 2
nd
ed. New Yark: The Ferguson Foundation series, J ohn Wiley; 1996.
[10] Mohsenin, N. Physical properties of plant and animal materials Vol.I. Gordon and Breach Sc.Pub.Inc. pp. 66-87, 205-207, 1978.
[11] Sreenarayanan VV, Chattopadhyay PK. Die electric properties of rice bran, J ournal of food process engineering, vol. 8, No. 4, pp. 231-
242, 1986.
[12] Viswanathan RN, Varatharajan, Gothandapani L, Sreenarayanan VV. Effect of moisture content on angle of repose and bulk density of
selected food grains, J ournal of Food Science Technology, vol. 27, No. 3, pp. 133-135, 1990.
[13] Sreenarayanan VV, Viswanathan R, Subramanian V. Physical and thermal properties of soyabean, J ournal of agricultural engineering,
vol. 25, No. 4, pp. 76-82, 1988.

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ISSN : 0975-5462 Vol. 3 No. 4 April 2011 2602