Changing the game for industrial fluid inspection: Inline Chemical Reaction Monitoring and Control Solution

November 22, 2022

The fourth industrial revolution has brought us many digital technologies that change the way we live and work. Artificial intelligence, robotics and the Internet of Things are used to improve productivity, efficiency, and sustainability of manufacturing processes. This transformation has been driven by the urge to collect and use more data, and sensors play an elemental role in facilitating this. Whilst they exist forbasic measurements such as temperature and pressure, we see a need for more advanced techniques that can monitor fluids more practically than the technology the market currently has to offer.

How do we monitor Fluid mixtures?

Fluid mixtures are commonly found ina wide range of industries, including chemical, pharmaceutical, food andbeverage, and oil and gas. The composition of these mixtures must be closelymonitored and controlled to ensure product quality and safety. According to amarket research report by MarketsandMarkets, the global process analyticaltechnology market is expected to reach $5.2 billion by 2022, growing at a CAGRof 7.5% during the forecast period.

There are several technologies currently on the market that allow for the monitoring and control of fluid mixture composition. One of the most widely used is Mid-Infrared (MIR) spectrometry. MIR spectrometers, such as Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectrometers, work by measuring the absorption of infrared radiation by a sample. The absorption spectrum can be used to identify and quantitate the different components of a mixture.

Figure 1 - Traditional FTIR spectrometer

FTIR spectrometers have severaladvantages over other analytical methods. They are highly sensitive, can measure a wide range of sample types, and can provide quantitative results. According to a report by Technavio Research, "FTIR spectroscopy is widely used for its high sensitivity, accuracy and versatility in identifying and quantifying chemical compounds in a wide range of samples." They are also relatively simple to use and can be operated by non-experts. However, they can be relatively expensive to purchase and maintain, and the equipment can bequite large, complex, impractical, and fragile. In addition, the equipment requires proper maintenance and calibration, which can be time-consuming and costly.

What industries is this technology relevant for?

MIR spectrometry is used in a wide range of industries, including chemical, pharmaceutical, food and beverage, and oil and gas. In the chemical industry, for example, FTIR spectrometers are used to monitor the purity and composition of chemicals during production. In the pharmaceutical industry, they are used to identify and quantitate active ingredients in drugs. In the food and beverage industry, they are used to monitor the quality and composition of raw materials and finished products. According to a report by ResearchAndMarkets, "The chemical and pharmaceutical industries are the major end-users of process analytical technology (PAT) due to the increasing focus on process optimization and quality control."

In a manufacturing context, MIR spectrometry can be used to monitor the composition of fluid mixtures during production. For example, in a chemical manufacturing facility, an FTIR spectrometer could be used to monitor the composition of a reactor feed stream in real-time. This would allow for adjustments to be made to the process in order to maintain the desired product composition. "Real-time monitoring and control of chemical reactions can significantly improve process efficiency and reduce costs," states a report by Frost & Sullivan.

Another example would be in the food and beverage industry, where MIR spectrometry could be used to monitor the sugar content of a liquid in real-time during the production process. This would allow for adjustments to be made to the process in order to ensure thatthe finished product meets the desired sugar content specifications. According to a report by MarketsandMarkets, "The food and beverage industry is expected to grow at the highest CAGR during the forecast period due to the increasing demand for food safety and quality control."

Figure 2 - Use Cases from the Food & Beverage Industry

So what’s the problem?

MIR spectrometry, particularly FTIR spectrometry, is a widely used and highly effective technology for monitoring and controlling the composition of fluid mixtures. It is used in a wide range of industries and can provide valuable information in a manufacturing context to ensure product quality and safety. However, the equipment can be quitelarge, complex, impractical and fragile, and require proper maintenance and calibration. Whilst the technology is attractive for a large range of sectors and industries, it can only effectively be applied in a limited number of use cases due to the disadvantages associated with existing appliances. Their large, immobile, and expensive nature prevents their application in many manufacturing areas. Specifically in this context, a smaller and more mobile application could prove to come in handy. An interesting alternative presents smaller, cost-effective Mid-IR Laser spectrometers that allow for top-edge non-invasive molecular sensing. They are low-cost, and chip-sized and their stable and durable qualities allow for every day usage in manufacturing environments.

The solution – the first miniaturized MID-IR Laser spectrometer

The employment of a novel widely tuneable micro-Mid-IR Laser source (OSEC) allows for a smaller appliance as a whole. No moving parts make this particularly resistant to vibrations and thus viable in a manufacturing context. Beyond this, the resulting measurements are high-quality and lab-grade. This is then combined with a contact touch probe detector allowing for the in-line analysis of liquids, making sample handling and preparation no longer necessary. The system is calibration and drift-free and has high SNR qualities, allowing for reliable usage in highly volatile environments. Compared to existing technology such as laboratory FTIR spectrometers, the new technology is smaller, and more robust whilst offering the same level of spectral range and quality for molecular analytics. Additionally, one of the main focuses during the development of the microsystem was to develop a design that was optimized for hyper scalability. The production can now be fully automated, and components are all large batches, making assembly quick and easy, leading to low unit costs. Instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on equipment, the inline chemical reaction monitoring and control solution can be produced for only a fraction of this price. Beyond this, it is safe infrared, involves no consumables and produces no waste. By re-inviting photonics for the Mid-IR, this solution brings lab-grade analytics to whole new markets, and we are excited to see how this will change the manufacturing industry.

How we did it

Together with Quantune Technologies and supported by Intel®, we are proud to be bringing this solution to market. Powered by Intel® Core™ i5 Processors which allows formaximum flexibility and performance in Industrial Settings, our solution enables our customers to effectively monitor mixing processes and reaction processes in real-time in their factories through off-the-shelf patented MIR micro spectrometers which reduce waste and ensure consistent product quality. Best-in-class Wi-Fi connectivity with Intel® Wi-Fi 6 (Gig +) ensures a responsive and reliable connection for immersive connectivity even in large factory spaces.


The marketresearch report by MarketsandMarkets on the global process analyticaltechnology market:

The reportby Technavio Research on FTIR spectroscopy:

The reportby ResearchAndMarkets on process analytical technology (PAT) in the chemicaland pharmaceutical industries:

The reportby Frost & Sullivan on real-time monitoring and control of chemical reactions:

The reportby MarketsandMarkets on the food and beverage industry: