Advanced Ultrasonic Monitoring for Concentrated Dispersions and Nanoparticle Materials

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Chemical Engineering


When a plane ultrasonic wave (a sound wave at higher frequency than humans can hear) travels through a fluid which has particles or droplets suspended in it, the particles/droplets scatter the wave by sending some of it in other directions. A very similar effect produces a rainbow when sunlight is scattered by water droplets in the air. With ultrasonic waves, which are compressional waves, scattering by the particles can also convert some of the wave into other wave types, namely thermal and shear waves. These processes take energy away from the ultrasonic wave which causes a reduction in its amplitude. By measuring the attenuation (loss in amplitude) and the wave speed for an ultrasonic wave travelling through the suspensions, we can find out the concentration of particles, how big they are, or something about their properties e.g. their density. Since these sorts of materials (suspensions of particles) have many uses e.g. foods, healthcare products, agrochemicals, drug delivery systems, a way of measuring their properties is a crucial element of a production process and of great importance in a number of industries.

In order to understand the measurements we make, we need to use a model, a set of equations and calculations which tell us how the properties of the particles and fluid affect the loss of amplitude and speed of the wave. The model we use has two parts: a multiple scattering theory, and a model for the scattering from a single particle. For some time, the model we used has been limited because it made some approximations about the two other wave types (the thermal and shear waves) which are produced at the particles; it assumed that those waves die away in a very short distance, and do not have any effect on the particles nearby. Although they do die away in a very short distance, they can affect the neighbouring particles when the suspension is very concentrated (i.e. there are a lot of particles in a small space). The thermal and shear waves themselves can be scattered by particles nearby and may be partly converted back into a compressional wave (an ultrasonic wave). This means we did not lose as much of the energy from the compressional wave as we thought. The process of wave conversion and re-conversion is referred to as multi-mode scattering and for many years, its effect has been ignored because we did not have a suitable model to calculate it.

Last year, a group of researchers at Le Havre (France), published a new version of the multiple scattering theory, which does include this multi-mode scattering, over 40 years after the original multiple scattering model was published. This is a useful development, but at the moment the model exists as a set of rather abstract mathematical equations which include many terms which we do not yet know how to calculate. What we propose to do is to transform this model into a form which enables online ultrasonic monitoring in a pipe. We will work out which parts of those equations make the most difference to the measured ultrasonic speed and attenuation (energy loss) in typical suspensions. We will develop some new models for scattering by a single particle so that we can work out how much energy is converted between wave modes. These models will take the form of sets of equations which will be solved by computer (numerical models), and also some forms which can be written directly in mathematical notation (analytical models). To demonstrate that the models developed in the project are valid, experimental measurements will be made of the attenuation and wave speed in suspensions at relatively high concentrations 10-30% by volume, and for a range of particle sizes.

The outcomes of the project will be a model in a form which can be used in online ultrasonic instrumentation. This will enable ultrasonics to be used with confidence as a process monitoring technique in a wide range of industrial contexts.

Planned Impact

Online monitoring of suspended particulate systems is an extremely widespread need across many industries, for example food, healthcare, chemical, agrochemical, petrochemical, healthcare, nuclear etc. In particular, there is a challenge with the monitoring of highly concentrated suspensions, for which many existing process analytical technologies are unsuited. Ultrasonics as a technique lends itself to online monitoring since it does not rely on sample dilution as do other techniques. However, the limitations of existing models for data interpretation preclude the use of ultrasonics in many online monitoring applications particularly those involving highly concentrated suspensions (for example in nuclear waste). Therefore the impact of the development of a reliable model for ultrasonic monitoring is potentially highly significant, since it would enable its implementation in a wide range of industrial applications. Improved monitoring leads to better process control, resulting in cost reductions, lower energy use, and potentially improved or novel products.
Ultrasonics also has the potential for significant impact in process monitoring of novel processing techniques such as those currently in design for nanoparticle production in the healthcare and pharmaceutical fields. This developing field brings with it new challenges for online process analytical technologies to provide the necessary process control and optimisation. Ultrasonic monitoring is well-placed to satisfy these requirements, provided that suitable models are in place to permit usable information to be extracted from measured data. Delivering a workable model which can be implemented into instrumentation is a critical step in achieving this potential impact.
Description A new model has been developed for ultrasound propagation in concentrated nanofluids. The mathematical development for the model has been published, with analytical and numerical solutions for attenuation spectra in such systems. The model has been tested against experimental data for silica in water suspensions in the particle size range 100nm to 1 micrometre. The model was found to work well over a specified frequency range.
Exploitation Route The findings are being taken forward in a subsequent EPSRC funded project on ultrasonic monitoring of systems with correlated particle positions and multiple phases. This will use the new model as a basis in part.
The model may be developed into an instrument algorithm by the project partner for particle characterisation for online monitoring.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description My work in this field has led to me being invited to lead the Computational Acoustics group of the UK Acoustics network, and I have organised the first meeting of the group with academic and industry delegates, thus engaging with an non-academic audience.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Other
Impact Types Economic

Title Chem Eng Research and Design Paper 2016 dataset 
Description The dataset for the published article D.M. Forrester, J. Huang, V.J. Pinfield, Characterisation of colloidal dispersions using ultrasound spectroscopy and multiple-scattering theory inclusive of shear-wave effects, Chem. Eng. Res. Des. 114 (2016) 69-78. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Public access to data. Validation of published theoretical model. Data available for other researchers and companies to use. 
Title JASA2017 paper dataset 
Description Data for the paper Pinfield, V. J., & Forrester, D. M. (2017). Multiple scattering in random dispersions of spherical scatterers: effects of shear-acoustic interactions. Accepted by Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Availability of data for other researchers and companies. 
Title Nanoscale paper dataset 
Description These data are those presented in DM Forrester et al, Experimental verification of nanofluid shear-wave re-conversion in ultrasonic fields, Nanoscale 2015. (DOI: 10.1039/C5NR07396K). They are published as a Figshare item with DOI: 10.17028/rd.lboro.2056149. The data represents the Figures in the paper, with both experimental ultrasonic spectroscopy results and simulated results. The zip file contains 24 Excel spreadsheets relating to the figures in the paper. All are labelled by Figure number. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The data has been made available and can therefore be used by other research groups wishing to have access to experimental data or to test related models. The findings from the dataset have been published and presented in a number of conference papers. 
Title Scientific Reports paper dataset 
Description These data are those presented in Forrester and Pinfield 2015 Scientific Reports paper on soft acoustic metamaterials (Scientific Reports 5, 18562 The data are the results of simulations based on multiple scattering models. These were carried out in MATLAB using code based on the ultrasound scattering models described in the paper. The dataset has been made available as Figshare item with DOI:10.17028/ rd.lboro.2003814 The zip file contains 22 Excel spreadsheets relating to the figures in the paper. Some are labelled by figure number, and others by the system simulated. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The findings from the data were published in a paper Scientific Reports 5, 18562 
Description Digusonic Ltd 
Organisation Digusonic
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We have provided Digusonic with the outcomes of the mathematical model developments for ultrasonic multiple scattering. These could be implemented for online ultrasonic monitoring systems.
Collaborator Contribution Digusonic have supplied instrumentation, purchased with University funds outside the project, and provided consultancy services in ultrasonic measurement which are pertinent to the project. Digusonic have also supplied experimental data for us to test the scattering models.
Impact None yet.
Start Year 2014