Optical and analytical developments

The story this week covers viscosity measurement on-line, where Hydramotion have reported that their XL7 viscometer has been able to significantly improve the efficiency of paper recycling operations, involving the use of different grades of starch, for Amcor in Sydney. More and more on-line analysis measurement systems provide process plant control, taking the lab onto the plant: plus several systems these days are described as “At-line”, where lab techniques are automated and use alongside the flow line, giving a response in a few minutes, instead of hours or even a day. Significant examples of this style of equipment are offered by Applikon Analytical, who can even conduct titration analytical measurements at-line in a hazardous area.

Tiger Optics offer a parts per trillion analyzer system for HF and HCl gases. The Tiger-i line employs the patented Tiger Optics continuous wave cavity ring-down spectroscopy (also known as CW-CRDS!), which basically uses the attenuation of multiple laser beam at a specific absorption wavelength passes through a sample cell to monitor the gas concentration, by comparison with an ‘off-peak’ beam. It is a very clever way of making a measurement independent of the mirror state and the natural air attenuation at the time, and can be tuned for other specific gases, for anyone that needs ppt monitoring: explosives and drugs come to mind.

Just as clever, but in a pharmaceutical application, is the Malvern Instruments use of their Morphologi high sensitivity particle characterisation system to slash the time required to analyse particles in a pharmaceutical ointment, typically down to just 15 minutes. This uses an automated system to size and count the particles, rather than an operator, so improves consistency and accuracy as well as the time involved. In a similar vein, the Hosokawa Mixing Sensor uses an optical reflection measurement to monitor a mixing process by looking for variations in particle size, colour, density and roughness, to determine the optimum mixing time. Last week another report also used optical techniques, this time video smoke detection in the tunnels at the Palm Jumeirah development in Dubai: the D-Tec FireVu system analyses normal CCTV system images, automating the detection of smoke to give alarm initiation faster than a human operator.

The Farnborough air show and exhibition produced some interesting spin-off applications of Defence Technology: the ‘Hawkeye’ system used at Wimbledon actually was a spin-off from MoD work on missile tracking systems – and the latest system for measuring a child’s foot size for shoe fitting comes from a 3D camera developed by QinetiQ for battlefield applications. Perhaps showing the reverse track, engine health monitoring technology used on RR Trent engines has been developed so far that it is being used by OBS Medical for giving advance warning of the initiation of strokes and heart attacks in patient monitoring systems.

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