Innovation Lab "Multiphase Flow Sensors"
ForMat “ Team Research for the Market”, An initiative project funded by German Federal Ministry of Research and Education (BMBF)
Multiphase flows determine decisively the efficiency and safety of many industrial processes, such as in chemical engineering, petroleum engineering, and power generation. Reliable and cost efficient sensor and measurement techniques which are able to sense or to detect multiphase systems in steady and transient states are needed in design, optimization, control and process monitoring of industrial plants. In recent time, the availability of commercial measurement techniques and sensors for the analysis purpose of flow regions, mixture compositions, temperature distributions and concentration fields is rather limited. Sensors for secure discrimination of phases and components in mixture flows need to be fast and have a superior spatial resolution capability, something that is commonly only achieved with imaging techniques. In order to distinguish phases and components in mixture flows, a fast response sensor with superior spatial resolution capability is needed. Imaging techniques are quite common to achieve the above objective. However due to opaque characteristic of mixtures, current widely used optical techniques are not applicable to many multiphase flows, such as particle flows in fluidized beds, oil-gas-water flows in oil explorations, steam-water flows in power circuits, and bubbly flows in chemical reactors. Another point is that imaging systems and techniques are generally characterized by higher complexity and therefore are not widely used in process diagnostics. As solution to these limitations, innovative imaging technologies which are based on distributed electrical measurements and tomographic imaging modalities are needed. As a consequence of the above limitations, many industrial processes are run on the basis of operator’s experience. This may result in unwanted variations in production, increased energy consumption, and sometimes even bringing risks to the safety procedures. The necessity of multiphase process sensors and imaging technologies readiness is therefore a core concern of many large chemical industries and associations of control and process engineering.
In the recent past scientists at FZD/HZDR developed a comprehensive portfolio of new sensors for multiphase flow measurement, mostly on the basis of imaging technologies. Our expertise ranges from the sensor front-end to image and data processing algorithms. Technology know-how has been generated which is based on a good research infrastructure, qualified personnel, continuous cooperation and joint projects with industries and research organizations. Our sensors are developed, utilized and qualified in our own thermal hydraulic test facilities. Many of our existing sensor solutions are patented and already available commercially. The upcoming Innovation Lab project serves as a technology development center which has the objective to bring existing ideas from science to industry. Our development is focusing on the applicability of sensor principles in harsh process environments and in scientific imaging instruments for well-defined industrial measurement tasks.
In the first screening phase (first ForMaT project 2008/2009), the concept team developed an innovation portfolio of multiphase measurement techniques with promising exploration-relevant research approaches and high potential areas to target market requirements.
The results of the screening phase were favorable evaluated by a commission of experts. Since March 2010, the innovation lab “multiphase flow sensors" at HZDR has started.
In the second phase (second ForMaT project 2010-2013) of the ForMaT project (“Team Research for the Market”), the main objectives of the innovation lab are development of new process sensors and adaption of the current established sensor concepts for industrial applications needs. Innovative imaging sensors and measurement techniques for industrial applications are our focus specifically. In addition to sensor concepts for specific industrial measurement problems such as filling level, multiphase flow rates and distributed temperatures, technologies will be developed to ensure process capability of the sensors in an industrial environment.
Three autonomous but integrated teams are formed to develop a coherent methodology and technology portfolio with the following major topics:
- Sensor technologies for extreme operating conditions
Mostly, industrial processes that are characterized by high pressure, high temperature, and alternating thermal stress load as well as aggressive media require high robustness of the sensor accompanying with low maintenance effort and long operating lifetime. The main objective of the team is to target further development of established sensor concepts (needle probes and process microscope) for application in extreme industrial conditions. In addition to a robust design and appropriate dimension for accessibility, low mechanical, thermal and electrical inertia), systematic selection and evaluation of special materials (alloys, ceramics, plastics), connection of materials (in particular coating) and manufacturing technologies (assembling, bonding, brazing, and welding) are the team special interest.
- New measurement techniques based on wire-mesh sensor technology
In comparison with single sensor, wire-mesh sensor provides a manifold number of information and is able to visualize phase distributions instantaneously in the flow cross-section by high speed acquisition of electrical properties of the flowing medium and relevant software that contributes to the sensor intelligence. The main objective of the team is to develop innovative methods for two-dimensional measurement of temperature, filling level and multiphase flow rates based on the wire-mesh sensor technology for application in vast market potentials, e.g. for chemical reactors, polymer reactors, off-shore oil separators and tank-filling systems.
- Electron beam process tomography
The X-ray tomography as a non-invasive imaging measurement method is so far exclusively applied in the medical sector or for the non-destructive testing of stationary objects with frame-rates of 20 images per second. Due to development of special electron beamer concepts, the frame rates of 10.000 images are achieved. With this frame rates, visualization of multiphase flows is achievable. Therewith, we have fulfilled the demands of process industries and R&D divisions such as universities and research institutes in the area of basic research and from inline quality control. The main objective of the team is to target further development of the system towards industrial applications. This requires lowering of the technical complexity while maintaining the system performance quality. The system needs to be a turn-key machine that is applicable in various industries beyond R&D applications.
The project is supported by “Dresden exists”. Moreover, it is strengthened by active technical collaborations with partners from universities, research institutes, and relevant industries.