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
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
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
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
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.