Vision sensors, the brain and intelligent data processing

At a certain age, around 70, our bodies begin to show signs of wear. What becomes apparent is that our built in control loops and data processing software steps in to compensate, and covers the gaps in the best way possible, working with the degraded sensors and equipment still functioning.

Dual sensors – the eyes!

J3827This was first obvious to me when I started to try to monitor the effects of glaucoma, which results in blind spots in the areas of sight for each eye. This is not apparent in normal life, as what you see is the brain-processed image from two eyes. Where one eye has a blind spot, data from the second eye is used to complete the single image in the mind – and this is how we do not notice the normal blind spots everyone has where the optic nerve leaves each eyeball. With the early stages of glaucoma, the smallish blind areas are only obvious when one eye is closed, so that your brain only works from one sensor. But our own sophisticated data processing fills in the blind spots with a plain area in the same colour/style of image as its surroundings, so you think that you see the whole panorama. With luck, opening the other eye will add detail from the second sensor, to complete the picture.

 

The brain as an image store…

When glaucoma gets severe, the blind spots from each eye begin to overlap, meaning that the processor has no data coming in from either of its two sensors for certain areas of your view, so the processor moves up a gear and fills the area with sort of a plain colour, the same as the surrounding areas. But actually it tries harder, and if you were viewing an array of books on shelves, the mind can insert a sort of composite image of the books there, and fill the blind spot: it almost tries to fill the space with past image information, when it last had an input from that area – when you were looking at that spot maybe. But the brain is not so good at this, and anyway it is old data. The driving authorities do not allow glaucoma sufferers to drive cars, as a child, or animal, or bollard, can disappear in a blind spot, replaced by an image of the surrounding tarmac road surface.

Astronomers already use this approach to refine telescope pictures of planets: getting the sharpest bits of multiple repeat images, disturbed by atmospherics, vibration etc., which can then be processed to produce an unblemished image.

Cataract operation – a sensor upgrade

Cataracts affect the vision, basically by making the image less precise, almost by adding a fog. I have just had the right eye operated on, and a ‘clean’ plastic lens inserted to replace the old cloudy lens. This does not help the glaucoma, but it gives the processor a whole new set of problems. Having worn glasses for myopia for 60 years, these were discarded as the new lens can see perfectly at distance. The brain now still uses the two sensors, but presents preferentially the sharply focused image from the right eye for distance viewing, supressing the fuzzy, out of focus image still available from the left eye. For close up views, maybe when reading, the left eye image is used, as the muscles of the right eye have lost some of their strength, and cannot focus up-close. So the brain switches sensors. All this happened straight away, no learning time needed.

Lazy muscles?

It was more of a problem when my glasses came back, one lens replaced with plain glass. Maybe they had been distorted by the optician, but the two images were displaced vertically with respect to one another. This requires the eyeballs to not move together, as they do when moving from side to side, but for one eye to move up with respect to the other. Not easy, particularly as the processor called on muscles not accustomed to such work to operate separately. So there was a mechanical delay in the control loop, of around a second, whenever I moved my gaze onto a different subject. The brain was doing the job, it was just the body complaining! However, a better option here is to adjust the frame of the glasses to restore normal operations…. maybe I “Should have gone to” ….a better optician!

The next step?

But do I need to wear glasses at all … or can the brain do the job without them? People use this technique with contact lenses, working with one for long distance sight, and one for close-up work.

The above is based on an article supplied for the Journal ‘South African Instrumentation and Control’, published October 2018 by technews.co.za

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Leaps in Technology, and the spin-off

Whilst pacemakers and other implants have become fairly commonplace in medical treatment systems, these still rely on battery technology, and have a limited life. When dealing with electrodes or sensor devices positioned carefully, sometimes deep in the body, a battery capsule is embedded under the skin, to enable future access for replacement. A new development project at MIT, to be more fully described at an August conference, describes a very small medical implant that can be powered and interrogated using radio frequency waves, even though it is deep within the body.

Medical devices that can be ingested or implanted in the body could offer doctors new ways to diagnose, monitor, and treat diseases. In their study, the researchers tested a prototype about the size of a grain of rice, but they anticipate that it could be made smaller. Giovanni Traverso, a research affiliate at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, is now working on a variety of ingestible systems that can be used to deliver drugs, monitor vital signs, and detect movement of the GI tract.

In the brain, implantable electrodes that deliver an electrical current are used for deep brain stimulation, which is often used to treat Parkinson’s disease or epilepsy. Wireless brain implants could also help deliver light to stimulate or inhibit neuron activity through opto-genetics.

In animal tests the researchers have shown that the radio waves can power devices located 10cm deep in tissue from a distance of 1m. Until now, this has been difficult to achieve because radio waves tend to dissipate as they pass through the body. To overcome that, the researchers devised In Vivo Networking (IVN), a system that relies on an array of antennas that emit radio waves of slightly different frequencies. As the radio waves travel, they overlap and combine in different ways. At certain points, where the high points of the waves overlap, they can provide enough energy to power an implanted sensor.

Mobile phone developments

The ubiquitous mobile phone. In various past articles I have mentioned the spin-off effects of the technology behind telecommunications and the mobile phone being used to create new industrial sensors, relying on the research and the production capabilities for the devices required for the industry. These spin-offs include the rise of radar level measurement systems, the use of wireless in many industrial sensors, and also the availability of many laser diodes, used for interferometry, liquid analysis etc.

Another major development is that of the liquid lens, used in these same mobile phones. This gets really personal, as for the last 60 years I have been an avid aero-spotter, keenly watching light aircraft arrive at our local airport using a telescope to identify them. Then, on arrival at or near the airport, using long and heavy telephoto lenses to photograph them. Later, I collected antique telescopes, manufactured from 1780 to maybe 1850, as they were still really the best quality optical systems, despite modern (commercial) developments. Again, long and heavy things.

But along came the liquid lens. This is a very small lens device, now commonly used in iPads and mobile phones. The liquid droplet forming the lens has its shape changed electronically, using an electronic control system. This is able to change focal length (to focus) and change optical axis (for optical image stabilization, ie to reduce camera shake effects) – all within a few milliseconds.

The idea for this invention came from research on the phenomenon known as “Electro-wetting” by Professor Bruno Berge, in Lyon, France, with the original patents being issued in 2002. Prof Berge started working on liquid interfaces from 1991 at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyon. A drop of water affected by electro-wetting can function as a variable magnifying glass: so two clear, non-miscible liquids of the same density, one being electronically controlled water, can serve as a lens, depending on the curvature of the interface between them. The two liquids are sealed and held in a metal casing that is typically smaller than 10mm in diameter.

Berge first approached Canon cameras with the invention, but attracted no funding. So with French state funding, and investment fund backing, Berge founded the company VariOptic in 2002. In 2007 they established a production line in China, and in 2009 the first industrial barcode reader with a VariOptic lens appeared on the market. Machine vision manufacturer Cognex was an early adopter of the technology, for barcode ID readers.

A new module now available from IDS (Imaging Development Systems) is a single board USB interface camera, available for use with and control of liquid lenses. These low-cost uEye LE industrial cameras with twist-proof USB Type-C connection and practical USB power delivery are quoted as interesting for logistics systems (eg for package acceptance and sorting), for microscopy and traffic monitoring, as well as for installation in small medical or industrial devices.

So, I am still waiting for a lightweight long focal length telephoto ‘liquid’ lens for my Canon camera. Maybe not the telescope – for as I pointed out to Prof Berge, one of my favourite telescopes dating from the 1790s was made by Matthew Berge, his namesake!

The full story about the Prof Berge development of liquid lenses was first reported by me as the very first blog post on www.telescopecollector.co.uk, back in December 2013.

This article was first published in the South African journal of Instrumentation and Control issue of August 2018, published by technews.co.za

E+H acquires Blue Ocean Nova

A new Endress+Hauser press release says the company is further expanding its portfolio of products, solutions and services in the field of process analytical measurement, by  acquiring Blue Ocean Nova AG, a manufacturer of innovative inline spectrometers for monitoring quality-relevant process parameters. 

Blue Ocean Nova will operate under the umbrella of the Endress+Hauser centre of competence for liquid analysis headquartered in Gerlingen, Germany: the 15 employees currently located in Aalen, Germany will be retained. “The intelligent process sensors developed by Blue Ocean Nova will enhance our offering in the field of process analytical measurement, adding a strategic building block,” said Dr Manfred Jagiella, Managing Director of Endress+Hauser Conducta GmbH+Co. KG. As a member of the Group’s Executive Board he is also responsible for the analytics business. 

Innovative concept

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The process sensors developed by Blue Ocean Nova cover the relevant optical spectroscopy regions of UV-VIS, NIR and MIR to analyze liquids, gases and solids inline. The innovative technology allows the spectrometer to be directly integrated into the measurement probe, even in explosion-hazardous areas. The sensors can furthermore be automatically cleaned and easily integrated into process control systems.

The systems from Blue Ocean Nova are utilized in the food & beverage, oil & gas, chemicals and life sciences industries for applications such as concentration and moisture measurements and for measuring relevant quality parameters. The technology enhances the Group’s portfolio, which already encompasses Raman spectroscopy, tunable diode laser absorption spectroscopy (TDLAS) and process photometers.

Extensive experience

Blue Ocean Nova was founded by Joachim Mannhardt and Stefan Beck in 2015, bringing extensive product development experience in the field of industrial spectroscopy and process analytical measurements to the company. “Endress+Hauser opens the door to international markets and customers for us,” explains Stefan Beck. Joachim Mannhardt adds: “We’re convinced that our technology will be an ideal enhancement to Endress+Hauser’s optical portfolio.”

Endress+Hauser acquired Blue Ocean Nova effective 31 October 2017. Both parties agreed not to disclose the details of the transaction. Joachim Mannhardt and Stefan Beck will remain on the management team of the innovative company. “With this acquisition, we are continuing to pursue our strategy of strengthening the process analytical measurement portfolio and in the future supporting our customers from the lab to process,” says Manfred Jagiella.

 

Wireless gas detection total system

Yokogawa has announced that the ProSafe-RS SIL2 Wireless Gas Detection System will be released in September 2017. This will offer a total flammable gas detection system solution, using ISA100 wireless communications, and Yokogawa will include the necessary  consulting and engineering.

The ProSafe-RS SIL2 wireless gas detection system will consist of a newly enhanced version of the Yokogawa ProSafe-RS SIL3 safety instrumented system (R4.03.10), Yokogawa field wireless network devices, annunciator panels, and GasSecure (a subsidiary of Drägerwerk AG) wireless gas detectors GS01 or the GS01-EA (this model is equipped with an extension antenna).

For this system, Yokogawa will establish a total solution that will include both consulting and engineering.

Development Background

In energy and basic materials industries such as oil & gas, petrochemicals and chemicals, a safety instrumented system is employed to safely initiate an emergency plant shutdown when a critical failure is detected, and to initiate the operation of facilities that can extinguish or prevent the spread of a fire.

A field wireless system consists of field devices that are able to communicate wirelessly with a monitoring and control system. Wireless devices have a number of advantages such as allowing installation in difficult-to-access locations and the reduction of installation costs, and they are increasingly seen as essential elements in plant safety solutions. This is a particularly important consideration with gas detection systems, as operation can easily be impacted by factors such as installation location and ambient conditions. And even after system installation, ongoing efforts to optimise its overall configuration may necessitate occasional changes in the location and number of detection devices. The use of wireless technology eliminates the need to worry about wiring and thus greatly facilitates the process of moving and/or installing additional detection devices.

To achieve SIL2 level risk reduction when using wireless gas detectors with a safety instrumented system, communication protocols that comply with the functional safety requirements specified in the IEC 61508 international standard are required. A standard for the functional safety of electrical/electronic/programmable safety-related systems. To meet this need, Yokogawa will provide a SIL2 wireless gas detection system based on a new version of the ProSafe-RS safety instrumented system that will link to field devices using an IEC 61508 compliant communication protocol.

Features of the System

The ProSafe-RS SIL2 wireless gas detection system will consist of a new version of the ProSafe-RS safety instrumented system, R4.03.10, that will be enhanced to add support for an IEC 61508 compliant safety communication technology used in distributed automation; annunciator panels; ISA100 Wireless compliant field wireless devices; and GasSecure GS01 or GS01-EA wireless gas detectors, which are the only devices of this type in the industry that achieve SIL2 risk reduction. The ISA100 Wireless network protocol is based on the ISA100.11a wireless communication standard for industrial automation that was developed by the International Society of Automation (ISA), and the applications necessary for its implementation. This was approved as the IEC 62734 international standard in October 2014.

Total system solution including both consulting and engineering

Through the use of wireless technology, the ProSafe-RS SIL2 wireless gas detection system will allow increased flexibility with the configuration of detection devices, and will be suitable for use as a fire & gas system and emergency shutdown system thanks to its achievement of SIL2 risk reduction. Based on its knowledge of each of this system’s components and its expertise in production control, safety instrumentation, and field wireless engineering and consulting, Yokogawa will be able to offer a total system solution that includes customer support.

Enhanced operating efficiency

On their Yokogawa CENTUM VP integrated production control system screens, operators will be able to easily monitor the operation of the ProSafe-RS SIL2 wireless gas detection system as well as that of any conventional wired gas detection system. Since the GasSecure GS01 or GS01-EA wireless gas detector uses the same faceplate as a wired gas detector, operators will have no trouble identifying any changes in the detector’s status, thus helping to prevent errors that can result from the misinterpretation of information.

 Improved maintenance

With CENTUM VP, operators will have on-screen access to information on the status of all network devices, the charge remaining on the gas detector batteries, and the status of wireless communications, and thus will be able to quickly detect and respond to any abnormality. Thanks to this functionality, more efficient maintenance plans can be drawn up that, for example, will require fewer periodic checks.

yokogawa

About ProSafe-RS

Released in February 2005, the ProSafe-RS safety instrumented system helps prevent accidents by detecting abnormal conditions in plant operations and initiating emergency actions such as a plant shutdown. An independent certification body has certified that ProSafe-RS can be used in SIL3 applications. Unlike conventional safety instrumented systems and distributed control systems, which are regarded as having different roles and functions and operate separately, the operation of ProSafe-RS and the CENTUM integrated control system can be fully integrated. ProSafe-RS is highly regarded by users and has been installed in more than 2,100 projects worldwide (as of June 2017).

Yokogawa’s Commitment to the Field Wireless Business

Yokogawa developed wireless communication technologies for continuous processes that necessitate advanced control and released the world’s first ISA100 Wireless system devices in July 2010, thereby offering its customers a wider range of products to choose from. Currently, Yokogawa offers its customers in the oil & gas, and other industries a wide range of field wireless management stations, field wireless access points, wireless field devices, and wireless adapters for conventional wired devices.

Major Target Markets and Applications

For use in fire and gas systems (FGS) and emergency shutdown systems (ESD) in process industries such as oil, natural gas, petrochemicals, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, electric power, and iron and steel.

Dräger GasSecure

GasSecure AS is a subsidiary of Dräger, and has been a long term partner with Yokogawa in developing the market for wireless gas detectors using ISA100. GasSecure developed, markets and sells the world’s first truly wireless optical gas detector for demanding industrial applications. Representing an evolution in gas detection, the detector is based on innovative ultra-low power MEMS optical technology and has introduced a new level of reliability and flexibility for the detection of gas leaks. The totally wireless detectors increase safety and dramatically reduce costs for the oil & gas, petrochemical, marine, and other process industries. For more information, please visit www.gassecure.com.

Fashions in sensor technology

I confess it was 50 years ago when I started looking at new technology for sensors. Back then, colleagues and I updated the old WW2 mine detector, using really low frequency (i.e. 1 kHz) magnetic waves to discriminate between ferrous and non-ferrous items, and assess the size and range of the target by the signal phase measurement. Here the electronics used ‘modern’ operational amplifiers, on a ‘chip’.

The 1980s

Ten years on, in the ’80s, the technology coming into vogue was ultrasonics, replacing float systems to make liquid level switches, and then, still using analog electronics, the first Doppler ultrasonic flowmeter appeared. With the availability of digital microprocessor circuitry, timed pulses transmitted through the air down to the surface of a liquid led to non-contact liquid level measurement, and major success in the automation of sewage sump pumping systems. (The success lasted maybe 30 years, as when the mobile phone business created low cost microwave components, similar systems based on radar began to take over in this market.)

The next leap forwards in the mid-’80s was the time-of-flight ultrasonic flowmeter – actually achieved with discrete digital circuitry, which was faster than the available microprocessors. The technology was originally developed at Harwell, for measuring liquid sodium flows in nuclear reactors, but these flowmeters found major application in monitoring clean water flows, primarily in water distribution mains. Over the next 25 years the technique was picked up by commercial interests, and continually refined, introducing clamp-on sensor systems, and adapting the technique for gas flows as well. Even domestic gas meters were introduced using the same principle. Eventually the microprocessor speed became fast enough to achieve the flow measurement accuracy needed – using multiple sound paths – for the fiscal measurement of oil flows, which is now one of the major applications, along with similar gas flow measurement tasks.

Other sensors where I was not initially involved were in the fields of gas detection – where for flammable gases, Pellistors created a major business area – and fire detectors. It seems that UV and IR fire detection systems are still seeking the best approach. Possibly because of the awareness brought about by the Internet, the pace of change and the commercial opportunities, the large corporations are quick to acquire small spin-off companies from university or other research after any small success, because of what technology they may have discovered: they do this ‘just in case’, to protect their market position.

Current developments

The area I see as most important currently, and a fruitful area to flag up for research projects, is in any style of optical analytical measurement sensor. Specifically, the component that brought this into industrial instrumentation was the tuneable diode laser (TDL), developed prior to 2005 for the telecommunications industry, to transmit telephone conversations and data down fibre-optic cables. Around 2007 Yokogawa acquired a business from Dow Chemicals, which used TDL sensors for near-infrared absorption (NIR) measurements of a gas mixture, which gave the proportions of oxygen, carbon dioxide and monoxide, and water vapour. This allowed the unit to be used as a combustion analyser for industrial furnaces, boilers etc.

Over the last 10 years this area of technology has grown in importance, and in its capabilities. Spin-off companies have emerged from various universities, like Manchester and Glasgow. A significant task in these developments is the application of the solution to an industrial problem: it needs the two factors of solving both the technical design and the industrial application. Cascade Technologies was established in Glasgow in 2003, and their analysers were initially targeted at marine flue gas emissions monitoring. From 2013 they added a focus on pharmaceutical gaseous leak detection, and also the process industry, on ethylene plants. Their technology allows multiple gases to be measured simultaneously. The Cascade business has now been acquired by Emerson.

Another closely market-focused supplier of NIR analytical systems is TopNIR Systems of Aix en Provence, in France, actually a spin-off business from within BP. TopNIR use their systems to analyse hydrocarbons – both crude oil and processed products – to allow a refinery operator to know how to most profitably blend the available components into a final product, as well as to minimise any quality give-away in blending the different grades of gasoline and diesel. TopNIR quote the annual benefit to a typical refinery at $2 to $6 million, with an implied investment spend of up to $2 million!

This article was first published in the May 2017 issue of “South African Instrumentation and Control” published by Technews.co.za

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Yokogawa Analyser systems integration services

The Yokogawa Analytical instrumentation makes up a significant part of their product range, serving customers in the oil, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, natural gas and power industries. The measurement techniques used in their products include chromatography, laser-based infra-red absorption and Raman spectroscopy, as well as industrial liquid sensors for conductivity and pH monitoring. Typically many of these sensors are installed in on-site laboratories or analyser houses, which can be skid or container type units attached to the process directly or via sample lines.

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The expertise developed within Yokogawa in the installation of efficient and effective analytical installations led to the establishment of a complete analyser system supply and integration service, to provide a total package of instruments, monitoring housings, sample line interconnections and conditioning systems, ready for site installation. Such services have been operational for some years, operating from bases within the Yokogawa US and Asian business units: now with the launch of a new service in Europe, ASI or Analyser Systems Integration, the same full service will be available to European customers. This makes Yokogawa a true one-stop-shop for ASI at both green-field or brown-field projects of almost any size, thus helping project owners to simplify their supply chains as they need only deal with a single team for all analytical requirements.

ASICenterEuropeinMadrid

The Yokogawa European ASI centre in Madrid

Loek van Eijck, business unit manager, analytical solutions at Yokogawa Europe, said: “We’re very pleased to announce the introduction of Yokogawa Europe’s Analyser System Integration service. This services responds to a growing market demand within the chemical, oil & gas industry, and increasingly in other process industries, to simplify project management of both new installations and renovations. We’ll be working with our own analysers and those of 3rd-party manufacturers, but it makes sense for project owners and primary contractors to deal with a single integrator of analytical systems, and for that integrator to be a supplier of instruments being installed.”

One of the major issues facing project managers is finding a team with the right skills and experience for specialist areas of project implementation. Yokogawa’s ASI service guarantees access to design and implementation engineers with the highest levels of qualification and certification. The highly skilled project management team is fully certified by Project Management Professional (PMP), while the engineering team designs solutions to the explosion-proof standards specified by ATEX, IECEx and all other relevant standards and legislative bodies, making design compliance easier to prove. They are backed up by a professional execution team with more than 150 years of accumulated installation experience.

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Yokogawa has built a global reputation for quality and innovation, and has now applied this to its ASI service. “We believe this sets our service apart from the competition,” said van Eijck. “Yokogawa has earned its reputation through involvement in some of the industry’s largest and most innovative projects, and is now able to apply this in Europe to ASI projects of almost any size from any process industry requiring highly accurate analytical instrumentation by sharing know-how with other ASI facilities and developing synergy among Yokogawa Group Companies.” This new facility makes Yokogawa a true one-stop-shop for ASI at both green-field or brown-field projects of almost any size, thus helping project owners to simplify their supply chains. The mature European process industry has many aging plants, and these regularly require updates, renovation and modernizationto meet current and new monitoring requirements.

The service provides a full analytical services life cycle from design, fabrication and manufacturing to installation, on-site services and training. Yokogawa ASI also links up to the similar services provided by Yokogawa in its Asian and US divisions providing customers with global coverage – an obvious advantage for international organisations and projects.

The ASI service in Europe is based in Madrid, Spain. Almudena Mier, ASI location manager at Yokogawa, said; “We have created an excellent facility here for the new service which offers a great environment for the team and the projects they will work on. Madrid is well served by transport links to the rest of Europe and beyond, and has access to some great local engineering talent as well as being an attractive place to work for staff and customers who come from elsewhere in Europe.”

(c) ProcessingTalk.info, June 2016

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Cascade Technologies: the background…

From the Insider Newsletter files: this is a background commentary article on the Emerson acquisition of Cascade Technologies, written back in December 2014. This article was published in the INSIDER Newsletter (www.iainsider.com) in January 2015.

TXT 3 Cascade logo

Cascade Technologies is a leading Scottish manufacturer of gas analysers and monitoring systems using their own Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL) technology, which can measure multiple gas compositions simultaneously. Their products help improve industrial emissions monitoring, production efficiencies and environmental compliance in various industries – such as petrochemical, food and beverage, marine, automotive and pharmaceutical.

The acquisition will expand the Emerson analytical monitoring capabilities by adding this innovative laser technology to its Rosemount Analytical gas analysis portfolio.  Tom Moser, group vice president of the Emerson Process Management measurement and analytical businesses, said “The acquisition of Cascade Technologies is an exciting step as we further strengthen our gas analysis portfolio. Customers depend upon Emerson to solve their toughest analytical measurement problems. We are now better positioned to serve that need.” Emerson considers that QCL technology has introduced a step change in gas analyser performance through its increased sensitivity, speed of response, and fingerprinting capability.

Dr. Iain Howieson, chief executive officer of Cascade Technologies, added: “Joining a global leader like Emerson represents an incredible opportunity for business growth. The Emerson global presence and market leadership will have an immediate impact on the adoption of our cutting edge QCL gas analysers and monitoring systems.”

The growth of Cascade Technology

Cascade Technologies is now based in Stirling in Scotland, and was established in Glasgow in 2003, based on their novel technology. They appear to employ over 40 people, and have over 500 analysers in the field. Initially the product was targeted at marine emission monitoring analysis for the monitoring and control of flue gases and emissions, to meet MARPOL and EPA regulations: by 2009 their product was established in this application and sales supply agreements were signed with both a partner covering the marine emissions monitoring market, and another covering flue gas setting analysers for domestic boiler production. The next year saw the start of sales of their aerosol leak detection system, and an exclusive supply agreement with a supplier of automotive test equipment. The CT3000 multi-component gas analyser for automotive emissions testing achieved sales of 200 units within 24 months

TXT 3 CT2100 on-stack gas analyser

Cascade CT2100 on-stack gas analyser

The last three years have seen rapid acceptance of the QCL technology in the pharmaceutical leak detection market, and the process industry, with the first process analytics QCL analyser at an ethylene production plant in the UK. This has also been used for natural gas moisture measurement applications. The analyser is also used for Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems (CEMS) for industrial gaseous effluent emissions: for example they consider that typically there would be 15 CEMS on each refinery in the USA. The whole installation of a single CEMS would cost $200k-400k, and 30% of this historically has been for the analyser.

Cascade appear to have several boom areas for the application of their technologies.

Cascade QCL technology

The Cascade technology is based on a principle called Tunable Diode Laser Absorption Spectroscopy (TDLAS), which can measure the concentration of gas species in gaseous mixtures, using light from tunable diode lasers and laser spectrometry to make measurements of the absorption at various wavelengths. In comparison to other analytical techniques such as paramagnetic detectors (PMD) and chemi-luminescence, TDLAS offers multi-element capabilities, high accuracy with a wide dynamic range, low maintenance, and a long life cycle. Lasers offer high resolution spectroscopy: QCL techniques offer use of the valuable mid infrared (MIR) part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The advantage of QCL is that it avoids any need for cryogenic cooling and gas lasers. QCL uses semiconductor materials having a series of quantum wells, so that higher power emission can be produced. In addition the lasing wavelength is not determined by the material itself, but by the physical thickness of the semiconductor layers. The patented Cascade Laser CHIRP technique enables the detector to work in the MHz region, with high speed room temperature detectors.

The result is a solid state compact design, giving reliability and easy integration: the technique competes strongly with gas chromatography, ion mobility spectrometry, and mass sensitive detector techniques. The Cascade development of multi-component TDLAS analyser platforms (capable of measuring up to 20 different gases in one instrument), allows a single multi-component analyser to replace multiple analysers in the field (for example those previously based on NDIR, chemi-luminescence). The QCL technology provides significant advantages in production throughput, accuracy and cost.