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Accurate, affordable pH control

   
 
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The RESET partnership, which involved academic, industrial and end-user organisations in four Member States, developed a state-of-the-art pH monitoring and control system compatible with the technical and financial resources of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the process industries.
The new system includes sensors that have a useful life five to 10 times longer than that of previously available models. Specially developed data-handling hardware and front-end software offer total control of pH values in complex processes from a single standard PC.
The RESET system extends the functionality of existing pH controls at a greatly reduced price, and is available today.

The measurement and control of pH in both process fluids and effluent discharge is critical to many industries. Yet until recently, accurate pH monitoring has rarely been achieved in practice - maintaining sensors exposed to the hostile industrial environments encountered in many process industries has been too expensive, while holding pH values at specified levels in a series of control sites has been too complex. Sub-optimal operation has therefore been commonplace, particularly among small and medium-sized enterprises.
This project has addressed these problems, largely through innovation and the innovative application and combination of proven technologies. It has designed new sensors with a greatly extended life cycle, featuring automated self-diagnosis, self-cleaning and self-calibration functions. The partners have also developed a PC-based software package to which any number of sensors may be linked, in order to control pH levels across a complete series of control sites.

Commitment to lower costs

The result is an integrated hardware and software package offering accurate pH monitoring and control at a price even smaller companies can afford. The project's partners anticipate widespread application in the pulp and paper, electro-plating, pharmaceuticals, food and beverages industries.
Lowering the cost of state-of-the-art pH monitoring was a central requirement of the original project specification. The industrial objective was to provide the process industry with an economic range of sensors for in-process liquid and sludge monitoring in aggressive production and effluent discharge environments. The partners specifically committed themselves to taking production costs and end-user prices into account during the development work to make this technology accessible to SMEs.

Longer sensor life

Prior to the project, the basic measuring technology had not advanced for many years. Available in-situ sensors only gave accurate readings for a very short time, particularly in difficult or dirty applications. Cleaning or replacing sensors was expensive in itself, and entailed stopping the entire process.
Out of frustration, many smaller companies in particular resorted to 'off-line' laboratory testing. Sample deterioration and lower sampling frequencies meant that the accuracy of monitoring was poor, and lab testing itself is by no means a low-cost option.
Using new materials, the partners developed sensors with a fully functional life that is between five to 10 times longer than that of conventional models. New self-diagnostic software gives the operator early warning of performance degradation. The new sensor was built into a retractable holder which has the ability to pre-empt sensor failure with a self-cleaning and self-calibration procedure, all without breaking the flow within the process plant.

More for less

Existing pH control technology was also unable to provide overall control of pH values throughout a process. The sensor at each control site had to be linked to a separate controller, and the parameters of each controller set individually.
The RESET system, on the other hand, feeds data from all the sensors via a pre-processing node to a single PC. Front-end software allows the operator to set all control parameters from a single screen, and offers considerably extended data storage and analysis facilities.
One plant in which RESET has recently been installed, for example, produces synthetic optical lenses. The process involves a complex cycle of pH values, with eight different, equally critical measurement and control sites. The work previously done by eight separate controllers is now being done by a single standard PC. Functionality and ease of use have been greatly improved at substantially reduced cost.

Technical support from the EU

The project mobilised the expertise of academic, industrial and end-user organisations in four Member States. Working to a tight 24 month schedule, the partners completed the workplan on time in December 1995.
Basic R&D work was carried out by the Université de Savoie. British company Solomat was responsible for the development of the electronic hardware and software elements of the system's sensor signal-handling component. A second British firm, Labtech, contributed to the mechanical aspects of the self-cleaning and self-calibration device.
The Heineken Brewery in Ireland, and the Swedish pulp and paper service company NITEC, both provided access to a number of sites where prototypes have been successfully field-tested in hostile environments over more than 12 months.

On the market

Reagecon Technology coordinated the project and leads the international marketing effort. RESET is already on the market, supported by technical and commercial literature, trade exhibition presentations, and advertising, as well as Reagecon's established distribution network. Systems have already been purchased and installed by a number of companies.
Although some of the underlying technology is not new, RESET breaks new technical ground both in the design of the sensors and the system's data-handling capabilities. The combination of these two elements is totally innovative for the intended application, and the partners expect rapid take-up across the process industry in Europe and beyond.

 

Project Title:  
Development and testing of an innovative range of in-process industrial chemical sensors for heterogeneous fluids

Programmes:
Industrial and Materials Technologies (BRITE-EURAM/CRAFT/SMT)

Contract Reference: CR-1031

Cordis DatabaseFor more information on this project,
go to the CORDIS Database Record

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