The new Titan Atrato ultrasonic flowmeter results from many years of co-operative research and development between Cranfield University and industry, and represents a real innovation in its field.
There are not that many innovations, or companies, that manage to stay the long course between identifying the concept and proving the final product. Indeed, the whole idea of a five-year development would seem to make the project impossible, particularly in the UK, where accountants rule the roost.
However, the Process Systems Engineering Group, based in Cranfield’s School of Engineering, has a particular brief to offer research, development and consultancy help to government and industry in the spheres of the oil and gas, water, process and energy industries. The original concept of the flowmeter, using low frequency ultrasound and advanced signal processing, came from the work of Mike Sanderson, Emeritus Professor of Fluid Instrumentation, and his group at Cranfield, and has been the focus of this development project championed by Titan. The Atrato is a good example of industrial co-operation bearing fruit and shows how vital universities and knowledge capital are to our industry – particularly ironic in a period when funding for universities is under heavy threat from government accountants.
The new Titan Atrato uses the well established time-of-flight principle; the main innovation is in the patented sensor arrangement, using two piezo-electric sensors separated along a straight flowtube, meaning that there is an unobstructed straight flow path for the liquid. The ultrasonic crystals are cut into an annular form, and excited across the radius. Effectively the ultrasound travels as a plane wave along the flowing fluid: it does not rely on the normal angled paths across the tube used in conventional ultrasonic flowmeters, or on any reflections from the pipe walls. The meter is therefore able to operate even in small diameter pipes. The plane waves also eliminate any major effects from changes between laminar and turbulent flow in the liquid, making the meter viscosity independent, and capable of a wide dynamic range.
What will be really interesting is to see the new applications that take advantage for the Titan Atrato meter, which might extend to medical and drink dispensing duties, as well as industrial applications and water meters. Prof Sanderson believes that the technology developed for the Atrato has the flexibility to provide the basis of a family of flowmeters suitable for a wide range of flows and applications. First public showing will be at the 2010 MTEC exhibition, at the NEC in April.