SPEC_SENSE: Fast Spectroscopic Sensing and Measurement Products for Characterisation of Industrial Processes

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Inst of Particle Science & Engineering

Abstract

We use a vast range of products directly or indirectly in everyday life. These range from soups to baby-foods to feed us; paints and coating products to provide robust structural materials; plastics and composites to create many products; and pharmaceutical drugs to fight disease. They share a similar manufacturing method in which raw materials (or reagents) are combined through physical or chemical means, and known as a 'process'. This takes place in a 'process vessel', which is often sealed, under pressure and at elevated temperature. Critical aspects of such processes are efficiency, product quality, energy use and emissions impact. The core aim of this project is to stimulate new sensing products that can enhance these aspects and exploit their markets through licences.The project builds upon our background science and experimental technology, which an estimation of the internal (invisible) distribution of process materials. These innovations harness two principles: spectroscopy - the identification of specific materials; and, tomography - the identification of the distribution of components within the process vessel (similar to methods to 'see inside' human bodies for medical diagnosis). Electrical energy using a 'compressed wide-band' is used, both to give the 'spectral' coverage and to provide fast response to suit dynamic processes. The project aims to provide a demonstration level for specific trial applications; to offer licensees a clear path for onward development into the two product forms: a 'point sensor' form, to identify materials in its immediate vicinity; and a 'zone sensor' form, to identify the distribution of specific materials. Increased knowledge empowers design and/or control to deliver major benefits to process end users: increased productivity and product quality, reductions in emissions and waste products, reduced energy demand and resulting carbon impacts. In illustration we can consider the advantages offered in two product examples. Pharmaceutical compounds are produced using crystallisation processes which are highly variable and can have poor yields such that some batches may not meet tight product specifications. This results in waste of energy, raw materials, and in the costly disposal of the useless out-of specification product. Here a Spec_zone sensor can transform 'process-knowledge' to allow 'smarter control, and gain a major increase in 'on-specification' yield, gaining obvious major benefits. These are very high value products and hence financial business savings can be large. The manufacture of foodstuffs follows a conventional recipe: such as mixing and cooking natural ingredients such as chopped vegetables in water. Unwanted objects in the product such as natural materials such as stalks and large seeds, and unnatural materials such as small pieces of metal or plastic are a possibility. Although these may be unpleasant for adults in products such as soups (but still present a serious 'brand' quality issue for the manufacturer) they may be dangerous if present in baby-foods. It is easy to find metals, using x-ray detectors on a pipeline, but much more difficult to find small objects, such small pieces of plastic or wood which can be detected by the 'wide-band' Spec_point sensor.In conclusion the ability to estimate the presence and concentration of specific materials and their distribution offers major benefits in effective process management. The project will provide demonstrations and concept details to enable licensees to develop future products, based on the Spec_point and Spec_zone concepts. It will include detailed application sectors studies to highlight potential early adopters. It is supported by two instrumentation suppliers who have expressed a keen interest in evaluation, and both have diverse markets and customers who are likely to be involved in evaluations.

Planned Impact

Who will Benefit and How? Licensees will benefit through having an enhanced and expanded product range and having a unique product not available elsewhere. This will provide the potential to expand into new market areas. Providing licensees with new products and income streams will increase their economic wellbeing and enhance their ability to retain jobs or perhaps increase employment. The fine/speciality chemical industry will form one of the main end-user beneficiary groups. Online monitoring and process control has the potential to provide significant increases in efficiency of both materials and energy usage. The chemical industry accounts for ~22% of all industrial energy consumption1. Improvements in energy efficiency through better process control will reduce the energy costs incurred by manufacturers and contribute toward efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. The cost savings for business will translate into increased job security for those employed in the industry. Production and development efficiencies will be improved within the pharmaceutical industry. The average development cost of a new drug is US$403 million2. By enhancing companies' ability to characterise compounds during development, Spec_Sense can provide significant impact on the development costs of new drugs. A 1% reduction in development costs could save a drug company US $4million. These savings may then be used for further development work and possibly savings in drug costs for health service providers. The food industry is another potential end user beneficiary. 60% of food and drink recalls are due to foreign body contamination3. The most common foreign body contaminants are glass, metal and plastic. Most food manufacturers use metal detectors but detection of glass and plastic particles is much more difficult. Enhanced detection of foreign bodies will provide both a health benefit for consumers and also a large economic benefit for manufacturers. Medical applications of electrical impedance spectroscopy have been exploited for some time. Electrical Impedance Tomography (EIT) has been used experimentally to study skin and breast tumours and to identify epileptic foci. At present the use of this technology in medicine is still experimental4. The introduction of the wide band 'chirp' and fast data processing technologies of Spec_Sense project may provide benefits in biomedical applications. Although we are not specifically targeting the medical market, the fact that the equipment will be available will make possible further research by clinicians using Spec_Sense. Ensuring Benefits are Realised Two ways of optimising impact - 1. By ensuring that the product is well suited to the end-user needs by understanding the market. 2. By involving potential licensees in the project to increase the likelihood of their uptake of Spec_Sense. Food industry impacts will be achieved by disseminating the Spec_Sense project results through the University's Food Chain Centre for Industrial Collaboration (Food Chain CIC). We will hold an event to promote the Spec_Sense technology to the industry through the Food Chain CIC's contacts. We will increase the chance of biomedical impacts by trying to seed further projects. We will do this through disseminating the work through the Biomedical and Health Research Centre (BHRC is a joint University-NHS initiative) at Leeds and Medipex (NHS medical innovation hub for Yorkshire and Humberside). References 1. Chemical Industries Association Website - Policy Issues - http://www.cia.org.uk/policy-issue-details.php?id=6 2. Di Masi J A, Grabowski H G, The price of innovation: new estimates of drug development costs, Journal of Health Economics, 22: 2003, pp151-185. 3. D.S, Holder, Electrical Impedance Tomography: Methods, History and Applications, Institute of Physics, 2004

Publications

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Description The prototype 'spectro-tomography' sensing system has successfully demonstrated the capability of the novel technology to provide a simultaneous estimate of both distribution and material identification in a process. Parallel research has explored the 'spectro-chemistry' of materials to identify promising application sectors.
Exploitation Route This project is based upon technology developed in the UK over the past ~15 years, mainly at Leeds and Manchester. In general terms it applies the concepts which are well known in medical diagnosis using non-invasive 'tomography'. The first examples were based upon X-rays: a narrow beam is passed through an object (typically a human torso). The attenuation along its path is measured by a detector at the opposite side. By moving both beam and detector around the stationary body a large collection of beam attenuation measurements are assembled. A sophisticated 'inverse process' is deployed to estimate the corresponding 2-dimensional (2D) density distribution, for example, in (Computer-assisted tomography) CAT-scanners. The 'grey-scale' image is called a 'tomogram'. This work aims to obtain similar data for inaccessible industrial processes, for example, in pharmaceutical manufacture, where large mixing vessels must be closely monitored to ensure performance and product quality. Here the processes change quickly and the sensing elements must be fixed and based typically on electrical stimuli, rather than X-rays. Since the processes are highly dynamic, image-based information must be generated quickly; typically many image estimates per second. In this specific project a novel energising stimulus is used, designed to excite a response containing 'spectral' information on the material at each point in the process. Thus the resulting 2D image estimate can now be overlaid with an indication of the material at each region (typically usually with a colour-coding scheme). The information provides a unique insight into the behaviour and operation of a process; enabling enhancement of product quality, and reduced energy consumption and emissions. The project has benefited from 4 industrial partners: two potential end-user companies, Glaxosmithkline and Johnson-Matthey; and two potential technology licensee companies: Malvern Instruments and Industrial Process Tomography, whose advice and support has been valuable in identifying application sector needs and general industrial opportunities.

User partners have indicated their potential interest and one (Johnson-Matthey) has published work on outline study on the technology [U.I. Oguh, J.F. Hall, G.T. Bolton, M.J.H. Simmons & E.H. Stitt, "Characterisation of Gas/Liquid/Solid Mixing Using Tomographic Electrical Resistance Spectroscopy", ISIPT Workshop on Process Tomography, Cape Town, March 2012].
Sectors Chemicals,Energy,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

 
Description The project has benefited from 4 industrial partners: two potential end-user companies, Glaxosmithkline and Johnson-Matthey; and two potential technology licensee companies: Malvern Instruments and Industrial Process Tomography plc (ITS), whose advice and support has been valuable in identifying application sector needs and general industrial opportunities. User partners have indicated their potential interest and one (Johnson-Matthey) has published work on outline study on the technology with a special prototype system which implements a much simplified version of the technology provided by ITS [U.I. Oguh, J.F. Hall, G.T. Bolton, M.J.H. Simmons & E.H. Stitt, "Characterisation of Gas/Liquid/Solid Mixing Using Tomographic Electrical Resistance Spectroscopy", ISIPT Workshop on Process Tomography, Cape Town, March 2012]. All hardware designs, firmware and software codes have been packaged and are available for exploitation via direct licensing via the University of Leeds. Unfortunately the results became available at the point in the economic cycle where companies were consolidating rather then investing in new products; this applied particularly to our SME instrumentation partners who have been particularly impacted by the recession. We are currently reviewing this opportunity with ITS who have indicated that they would be interested in developing a product line from the results. To transform the project results to an industrial product will require funding. The company is considering Innovate UK funding for this purpose
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Chemicals
Impact Types Economic

 
Title Software and methods for spectro-tomography instrumentation 
Description Range of algorithms and codes for creating wideband stimulation and wavelet response processing. 
IP Reference  
Protection Copyrighted (e.g. software)
Year Protection Granted 2012
Licensed No
Impact All hardware designs, firmware and software codes have been packaged and are available for exploitation via direct licensing via the University of Leeds.
 
Description International Society (for researchers and industrialists) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact International Society of Industrial Process Tomography (ISIPT) - see www.isipt.org.
Participation on Executive Management Group since 2008 and Elected as President in 2016.
The Society was developed from UK roots at UoLeeds and UMIST/UoManchester in ground breaking work on industrial Process Tomography (IPT) which created the Virtual Centre for IPT. A key dissemination action was the organisation of World Congress Events - since 1999, now adopted by ISIPT.

Next event (orgnaised by BSH + Prof J Love at Imperial College - is an 'IPT in Control' event which takes place in April 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008,2009,2010,2011,2012
URL http://www.isipt.org
 
Description Super-sensing Consortium 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact iUK sponsored event focussing on Multi-dimensional sensing.
Major follow-on activity is evisaged which embraces 10-20 major and SME companies. Several have indicated strong interest.
Next phase planned for May 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015