Today I would like to share an application story with you using mass flow meters in an application at Umicore in Suzhou (China).
Umicore is one of the world’s leading producers of catalysts used in automotive emission systems. The company develops and manufactures high performing catalysts for, among other things, gasoline and diesel engines to transform pollutants into harmless gases, resulting in cleaner air.
Umicore’s production location in Suzhou ‘Umicore Technical Materials’ is using Bronkhorst Mass Flow Controllers and Vapour Systems for research and testing of automotive emission catalyst materials. Newly developed catalytically active materials of Umicore consist of oxides and precious metals, such as platinum and palladium, incorporated into a porous structure which allows intimate contact with the exhaust gas.
What catalyst materials does Umicore test?
Umicore in Suzhou uses various test benches in which newly developed catalytic materials are tested on performance (read: low output of toxic emissions). “Umicore develops new catalysts directly with top-tier automobile manufacturers in China. We are testing new formulations of materials and shapes of the catalysts on performance” explains Mr. Yang Jinliang.
How are the mass flow meters and controllers applied for identical testing and simulation?
The Bronkhorst mass flow meters and controllers are used to accurately deliver the right amount of several gases in a mixture that simulates the exhaust of an engine in different circumstances. “To really compare the performance of newly developed formulations, we have to be sure that the operational conditions of our tests are identical.” Mr. Yang explains that this requires the use of high performance mass flow controllers to accurately mix the simulated exhaust gas.
“We need flow control equipment which is reliable and has excellent repeatability during our simulation runs. Therefore Umicore developed the test equipment together with the Bronkhorst flow specialists.” Umicore runs various simulations. “We simulate exhaust gases of engines under various life cycle simulations and operating conditions. For example, the exhaust gas of the car is different if the engine is still cold or if the engine has a high number of revolutions.”
Test bench for ageing simulation
One special test bench of Umicore simulates the ageing of the catalyst materials. This has been achieved by heating the ambient temperature of the Catalyst up to 800° Celsius for a couple of hours up to 24 hours in a test run while adding the simulated exhaust gas. “Here the Bronkhorst instruments prove high stability under the harsh testing conditions,” says Mr. Yang.
Exhaust gas simulation recipe
In order to simulate engine exhaust gas, Umicore mixes multiple gases. In general the following reactions take place in the catalytic converter:
1.Reduction of nitrogen oxides to nitrogen and oxygen: 2NOx → xO2 + N2
2.Oxidation of carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide: 2CO + O2 → 2CO2
3.Oxidation of unburnt hydrocarbons (HC) to carbon dioxide and water: CxH2x+2 + [(3x+1)/2]O2 → xCO2 + (x+1)H2O.
To mix these gases, EL-FLOW Select digital mass flow controllers are being used. In order to maintain the gas mix under the same pressure, an EL-PRESS pressure controller instrument is used to control the pressure simultaneously with the flow.
Exhaust gases of engines also contain evaporated H2O. For this purpose the Bronkhorst ‘Controlled Evaporation Mixer’ (CEM) is used. All digital mass flow controllers, pressure controller and the CEM are connected with a computer that runs a software program to control the instruments.
In the ageing simulation test-bench of Umicore, high-temperature mass flow controllers of Bronkhorst are applied. The Bronkhorst EL-FLOW Select controllers have remote electronics to resist gas temperatures as high as 110° Celsius and still control the gases with high accuracy and excellentrepeatability.
How do you like the support of Bronkhorst products in China?
When asked about Bronkhorst support and service in China, Mr. Yang is very enthusiastic: “All Bronkhorst experts in China are very professional and have quick response. Especially during the start-up phase of our project, when we needed it most, my contacts were determined to support us. The system runs smoothly, but it’s comfortable to know that Bronkhorst is having one of its Global Service Offices in Shanghai if we need calibration or service.”
• Learn more about another application in this market: Simulation of exhaust gas to test lambda probes.
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The temperatures are sky high! All winter you've thought about going camping, travelling with your caravan and planning precious family trips. Finally now it’s the time to leave everything behind, and for a moment, forget the busy daily live and struggling at home. However, everywhere you go, Bronkhorst is travelling with you. Bronkhorst plays a role in many more applications than you think, also when you go camping. Let me guide you through some mainstream products you often see at a camping site, and the involvement of mass flow controllers.
If you are travelling to your holiday destination by car, you will constantly look at some Bronkhorst solutions. Let’s start with the dashboard of your car. Many cars have a leather dashboard; at least, it looks like leather. A major company manufactures ‘skin’ that covers a car's dashboard, to give it this ‘leather look’. The skin is produced by spraying liquid, coloured polyurethane into a nickel mould. A Coriolis mass flow controller combined with a valve forms the basis of this solution to accurately supply external release agent to the nickel mould surface.
But also the foam within the dashboard is manufactured by using Bronkhorst products. To create foam, a gas is added to a mixture, containing acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (ABS) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), to give it the right volume. Too much gas will make the foam unstable, too little and you’ll get a heavy solid block. Therefore, it is utterly important that the correct amount of gas is added with an accurate gas flow controller.
If you look beyond your dashboard, you’ll look through the front window of your car. To control the light transmittance of glass, but also to make glass water repellent, protect it from mechanical and chemical stress, increase the scratch resistance and shatter protection, thermal mass flow controllers are used for the coating process. By controlling individually process gas flows, film thickness uniformity improvements are achieved.
Coating on headlights
When polycarbonate was introduced as a replacement for headlights glass in the early 1980s, new problems arised. Headlights are subject to a harsh environment. Due to the position in the front of a car, critical parameters for lifetime and performance are weather ability, scratches and abrasion. To protect headlights from these factors, scratch and abrasion coatings have been developed that are sprayed on the headlights with the help of robots in which Coriolis mass flow controllers control the flow to the spraying nozzles.
However, surface treatment is not only applicable for glass and dashboards. If you have experience with camping, you will be familiar with how fierce the summer weather sometimes can be. The awning of your caravan needs to be water repellent - this also applies to your raincoat - to sustain the heavy rainfall now and then. To make fabrics and textiles hydrophobic, Empa - a research institute of the ETH Domain, applies plasma polymerisation to deposit thin, nanoscale layers on top of fabrics and fibers. For this, they are using a Controlled Evaporation and Mixing system, in short a CEM system. In one of our previous blogs ‘Hydrophobic coating, the answer to exercising in the rain’ you can read about this application.
Mass flow controllers are used to make awnings hydrophobic
Bronkhorst is also involved with many smaller attributes you will encounter on a campingsite. Most people still enjoy the comfort of gas for heating or cooking on the stove. But also with gas we are able to fire up the barbecue in no time at all, in comparison with the old-fashioned briquettes that are sometimes hard to ignite. When gas escapes from a pressurized cylinder, you’ll recognize this from its penetrating scent. However, like Sandra Wassink stated in her blog “How mass flow controllers make our gas smell”, natural gas is odorless. By controlled supply of odorants like Tetrahydrothiophene (THT) or Mecaptan with a mass flow controller, the scent is added to the natural gas on purpose.
Let’s stay with the topic scent for a moment. For when we want to decrease the amount of mosquitos in our surroundings, we often enlight a citronella candle when we are getting tired of using the flyswatter. With the CORI-FILL dosing technology, Bronkhorst offers an easy-to-use setup to dose fragrances, like citronella, in candles. The addition of fragrance to a candle should be carefully monitored to ensure the candle burns cleanly and safely. To read in more detail about the production of scented candles, please read the blog of Graham Todd.
However a candle can bring much light to your surroundings, you won’t take a candle with you when you haste to the camping toilets at night. Instead you will use a flashlight of course. The working principle of the LED (Light Emitting Diode) inside this flashlight is a technology where Bronkhorst plays its part. LED works via the phenomenon called electroluminescence, which is the emission of light from a semiconductor (diode) under the influence of an electric field. By applying a semiconducting material like Gallium arsenide phosphide for instance, the manufacturing of red, orange and yellow light emitting diodes is possible.
I already told you so much, but frankly, just a tiny bit of all the camping applications we are involved at. Hopefully you got some more insights on the importance of Bronkhorst in many industries, also when you go camping.
If you want more information concerning the discussed applications, please contact us.
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The automotive industry is the biggest industry in the world. Some quick facts:
• Approximately 99 million motor vehicles are produced per year (source: European Automobile Manufacturers Association).
• The world’s largest car-producing countries are China, Japan, Germany, India and South Korea (2017).
• There is a large discrepancy in the average annual distance travelled by car between countries. In the US, this figure is around 21,500 km/year. In Europe, the average is 12,000 km/year (source: Odyssee).
• On average, a car has 30,000 parts (source: Netstar).
A lot of people go to their work and on holiday by car. I do as well. I use my car every day, but while driving to Ruurlo, I had never realised that the flow meters which we develop have been used to produce my car. Did you? Inspired by that realisation, I discovered that our flow meters play a role in a lot of applications in the automotive industry; probably not in all 30,000 parts, but for sure in some of them. I have therefore collected three interesting applications of flow meters in the automotive industry to share with you.
1. Accurate dosing of release agent
In its automotive department, a major company manufactures ‘skin’ that covers a car's dashboard to give it a ‘leather look’. This skin is produced by spraying liquid, coloured polyurethane into a nickel mould. To allow easy skin release from the mould without any damage, an external release agent has to be applied onto the mould surface prior to spraying the polyurethane. Bronkhorst was requested to supply a [suitable mass flow controller](http://www.bronkhorst.com/int/markets/miscellaneous-applications/application-note-a075-gp03-accurate-dosing-of-release-agent/ ) in order to dose this release agent.
2. Valve seat testing
Valve manufacturers check any metal-to-metal valve seats using pressure degradation methods. Since the new generation of car engines are running on higher pressures, the manufacturers are in need of new methods for leak testing to keep up with customer needs. Recently, Bronkhorst has been successfully involved with manufacturers of [valves and valve seat testing machines](http://www.bronkhorst.com/int/markets/miscellaneous-applications/application-note-a056-gp03-valve-seat-testing/ ) to implement low-flow measurement as an alternative method for a better performance.
3. Simulation of exhaust gas to test lambda probe
Each modern car with a combustion engine has a self-controlling way to optimise engine performance. A lambda probe, a sensor positioned in the exhaust section of the car, measures the oxygen content of the car exhaust gases. This oxygen content, the ‘lambda value’, is a measure for the effectiveness of the combustion process in a car’s engine. The research department of a car producer needs to test the performance of these lambda probes with several exhaust gas compositions. To this end, they built an artificial exhaust line in which they do not use real exhaust gas but simulate the composition of car exhaust gases. They asked Bronkhorst to deliver [mass flow controllers](http://www.bronkhorst.com/int/markets/miscellaneous-applications/application-note-a069-gp03-simulation-of-exhaust-gas-to-test-lambda-probe/ ) for this purpose.
Renewable energy in the automotive industry
Next to these applications at car manufacturers (or suppliers to the automotive industry), Bronkhorst instruments are also used by universities that join competitions or are doing research into renewable fuel sources for the automotive industry. For example, Green Team Twente is trying to build the most efficient hydrogen car. In this blog, they tell more about their research.
In addition, Solar Team Twente participates in the World Solar Challenge every two years. Participating teams are challenged to design a car that drives 3,000 kilometers from North to South Australia in a maximum of six days, purely on solar energy. Bronkhorst sponsors this team. Read more in our news article.
A third renewable energy source being researched is formic acid (Hydrozine). In her blog, Lotte Pleging of Team FAST explains why they believe in formic acid (HCOOH) as a suitable candidate to replace fossil fuels and what the role of the Bronkhorst thermal mass flow meters is in the process of generating this renewable fuel. Read more below.
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Why do we all (at least most of us) like candy, soda, cookies and cake? All these products contain sugar which makes it taste real good. But where does this sugar come from? All green plants make sugar through photosynthesis. Of all plants, sugar beets and sugar cane contain the greatest quantities of sugar; that’s why we usually use these two plants to extract sugar. In this blog we focus on the processing of sugar beets and the role that Bronkhorst flow meters have in this process.
Convergence Industry B.V. is a supplier of customized measurement and control systems for liquids and gases. In the process of getting sugar from sugar beets one of the customers of Convergence discovered that by using membrane filtration, it was possible to extract more components out of the sugar beet than sugar alone. For this a customized lab scale system for nano filtration was used.
Membrane filtrations is a high-quality purification process using sophisticated techniques. How does this work? A simple explanation of membrane filtration is comparing it with making coffee. If you pour water in a coffee filter filled with coffee beans, you want coffee as a result without the shell of the coffee bean. That’s what the filter is for. On another level this is similar to water filtration where you want to filter the ions so you can make drinking water out of seawater. As simple as that!
Collaboration with Convergence for membrane filtration
For the membrane filtration a ‘Convergence inspector Colossus’can be used. This is a fully automated customized lab scale system for nano filtration which makes it interesting. Felix Broens (Chief Technology Officer of Convergence Industry B.V.) explains how this system works:
”The nanofiltration system is fed with water in which a phosphatefree anti scalant is dosed. Using a high pressure pump the system is pressurized, causing a part of the water to pass to the membrane (permeate). The part of the water that cannot pass through the membrane (retentate) is led back to where the water has been fed. An extra pump in the recirculation conduit causes a higher velocity across the surface of the membrane, which reduces pollution on the membrane itself. The permeate can eventually be used as clean water for different applications.”
“The anti scalant is used to prevent scaling on the membrane, by forming a complex of metal-containing ions, which keeps them in the retentate stream so that they can be led out of the system. Because of using a phosphate free and biodegradable anti scalant, it doesn’t have any harmful effects on the environment.”
Bronkhorst flow meters in membrane filtration
The heart of the nanofiltration system is a Bronkhorst Coriolis mass flow meter for controlling the process. It uses a Coriolis flow meter because it can measure density as well, which is important in case of sugary solutions. The flow meter is placed at the ‘clean’ side of the process, so behind the membrane where the permeate flow takes place (the purified product flow). The degree of separation of the membrane can be influenced by both flow speed and pressure. And thus a Coriolis flow meter with a wide range is the best option to cover a large test range.
This Convergence system has made it possible for their customer to improve their process enormously. Before using the Convergence system it was a manual process that was rather time consuming and not always accurate. Nowadays the whole process is automated using client-specific Convergence software which makes it possible to accurately control the Coriolis mass flow meter with the pump and therefore, the permeate flow can now be controlled accurately and fast. This results in a good reproducibility, reliability, datalogging and shorter lead times for the experiment compared to as it was before. This customized lab scale system makes it possible to generate a sufficient amount of residue for testing purposes without making it necessary to upscale the process to a pilot plant.
Check out the Coriolis flow meters available for this application:
Contact Convergence for more information about membrane filtration
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Anglian Water Services cleans water to the highest standard, delivers it to millions of homes, and carefully manages it to ensure it never runs out in an area of the UK. They started a project to optimize and further control dosing of phosphates in the public water system.
The functionality of orthophosphoric acid in the public water system
Public water systems commonly add phosphates to the drinking water as a corrosion inhibitor to prevent the leaching of lead and copper from pipes and fixtures. Inorganic phosphates (e.g. phosphoric acid, zinc phosphate, and sodium phosphate) are added to the water to create orthophosphate, which forms a protective coating of insoluble mineral scale on the inside of service lines and household plumbing. The coating serves as a liner that keeps corrosion elements in water from dissolving some of the metal in the drinking water. As a result, lead and copper levels in the water will remain low and within the norms to protect the public health..
What was the original process ?
In the original process a down-steam analyser was in-place to measure the concentration of orthophosphoric acid in the main flow. The measurement results were checked against the required concentration and used to adjust the pump speed and therefore the level of orthophosphoric acid in the main flow. With this process Anglian Water Services can secure copper and lead concentration levels in the water acceptable to protect the public health. Nevertheless the process had room for improvement, which will be discussed in this blog.
The original process of record
What are the limitations in the original process?
The reactive feed-back loop mechanism for dosing phosphates was not a preferred working method. We could not react quickly enough to the changing main flow to reduce or increase the dose proportionally. We had to ensure that we dosed to a level meeting the legal requirements assuming the station was processing maximum flow.
Secondary costs were added to the system by needing double redundancy on the analyser to ensure there is no break in the measurement of orthophosphoric acid levels.
- Reducing phosphate levels.
- Reducing the cost of meeting legal environmental standards for the business.
- Remove the downstream analyser and redundant spare in the process of record.
Two sensor technologies were evaluated to enhance the process ; Differential Pressure and Coriolis technology.
The Differential Pressure instrument was the most cost effective and allowed us to meter the Orthophosphoric acid flow as a volume, it would take an analogue signal input and adjust the dose proportionally to the main flow.
The Coriolis Mass Flow Meter utilizes direct Mass Flow Measurement, which is preferable over volume flow for this application and is more accurate and repeatable, but is more expensive. It would also take an analogue signal input and adjust the dose proportionally to the main flow.
Combination of mini CORI-FLOW with Tuthill pump
Making a decision appeared to be based around return on investment. Essentially the time taken to generate sufficient savings. However, during the demonstration of the Coriolis Mass Flow Meter we learned something new that would change the direction of our final design. The Coriolis Mass Flow Meter gave the density of the fluid being metered as an output.
Why was this important?
Phosphoric acid it sold in diluted concentrations , usually 80% in solution. What we have found is that there is a variation in the actual concentration at the point of use.
At this point we already knew that either the Differential pressure or Coriolis technology could support us to enhance the process of record. Now we had the chance to go to the next level and take a previously unavailable but very important parameter and use it to really refine the dose ratio.
The extra density parameter available with the Coriolis Mass Flow Meter made the decision for us. Dosing would now be controlled proportionally to the main flow and the density/quality of the phosphoric acid being used.
The enhanced process
What are the projected benefits using Mass Flow Meters:
As we look to go live on the first five installations of this technology, we are projecting the following:
- Stable concentration of orthophosphoric acid in the public water system.
- Maintaining the public health commitments of the Water Industry.
- Decreasing the addition of phosphoric acid into the environment by significant levels.
- Two-fold cost reductions: by eliminating the down-stream analysers and the consumption of phosphoric acid.
At Anglian Water Services they live with a Love Every Drop approach. The Love Every Drop approach is a vision for how they believe a modern utilities company should be run. That vision means creating a country with a resilient environment that enables sustainable growth and can cope with the pressures of climate change. Creating infrastructure that is affordable and reliable, meeting the needs of customers, communities and the environment. We want our people and our communities to be resilient too. Phosphoric acid is connected with the concept of planetary boundaries according to Rockström et al. 2009. Anglian Water Services was able to reduce the consumption of phosphoric acid in their processes without sacrificing the quality of the water. This fits with the way they run their business.
Our water treatment specialist are more than happy to help you face your challenges in water treatment. Send us your questions
Contact our Water Treatment Specialists
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A Coriolis mass flow meter is known as a very accurate instrument and it has many benefits compared to other measuring devices. However, every measuring principle has its challenges, as also the Coriolis principle. It can be a real challenge using Coriolis instruments in low flow applications in the heavy industry where you may have to deal with all kinds of vibrations. In this blog I would like to share my experiences with you regarding this topic.
The Coriolis principle
Coriolis mass flow meters offer many benefits above other measuring devices. First of all Coriolis flow instruments measure direct mass flow. This is an important feature for the industry as it eliminates inaccuracies caused by the physical properties of the fluid. Besides this benefit, Coriolis instruments are very accurate, have a high repeatability, have no moving mechanical parts and have a high dynamic range, etc.
Read more about the importance of mass flow measurement and the relevance of Coriolis technology in a previous blog.
Do vibrations influence the measuring accuracy of a Coriolis mass flow meter?
In industrial applications, all kinds of vibrations with different amplitudes are very common. A Coriolis meter measures a mass flow using a vibrating sensor tube, which fluctuation gets intentionally out of phase when the fluid flows through. As explained in the video [link] at the end of this article.
This measurement technique is somewhat sensitive to unwanted vibrations with a frequency close to the resonance frequency of the sensor tube (this depends on the sensor tube design, e.g. 360 Hz) or a higher harmonic of this frequency (see picture below).
The likelihood of the occurrence of these unwanted vibrations is higher in an industrial environment. Coriolis flow meter manufacturers do their utmost to reduce the influence of vibrations on the measured value by use of common technical solutions, such as using:
- higher driving frequencies
- dual sensor tubes
- different sensor shapes
- mass intertia (e.g. mass blocks)
- passive and active vibration compensation
So yes, vibrations can influence the measuring accuracy of your Coriolis flow meter, but only if the vibrations have a frequency close to the resonance frequency. What can you do about this? This depends on the kind of vibration.
What kinds of vibrations do exist?
In an industry zone frequencies can be generated by:
- environmentally related vibration sources (such as: truck, rail transportation, industry activities)
- building-based vibration sources (mechanical and electrical installations, like air conditioning) or
- usage-based vibration sources (installed equipment and machines, e.g. pumps, conveyor belts).
These vibrations travel through a medium like the floor, in the air, through pipes or the fluid itself. If these vibrations disturb the Coriolis frequency, the measured flow could be incorrect in some extent.
To minimise the effects of vibration it is useful to identify these sources. Sometimes, it is possible to move the flow meter just a little bit, turn it (Coriolis flow meters are in most cases less sensitive to vibrations if the meter is rotated 90 degrees), make use of a big(ger) mass block, use flexible tubes or U-bend metal tubes or use suspension alternatives.
How could you check the performance of a Coriolis flow meter?
A well performing flow meter and controller will give the best process result. Therefore, it is advisable to test a Coriolis flow meter in your application if you expect heavy industrial vibrations before you trust it to the full extent. Be careful when filtering the measuring signal. In some cases it makes sense (e.g. when a quick response isn’t required), but if you want to test the performance of a flow meter, filtering could blur your judgement.
If in specific circumstances the Coriolis flow meter isn’t performing the way it should, the operator will see a shift in the process output – for example in an application dosing colour to a detergent it can result in differences in product colour by incorrect dosing and/or unexpected measuring signal behaviour. In these cases it makes sense to check the raw measuring signal (without filters!), because it will give you a good insight in the performance of the flow meter. Ask your flow meter manufacturer how to switch off all signal filtering.
Standards regarding vibrations
Remarkably, the influence of external vibrations is not clearly defined in a standard for Coriolis flow meters. Several standards are written about vibrations, but none in respect to measuring accuracy in relation to vibrations. However, two useful standards in relation to vibration are:
- IEC60068-2, Environmental testing for electronic equipment regarding safety
- MIL STD 810, Environmental engineering considerations regarding shock, transport and use
As a user of Coriolis flow meters it is important to understand your application, especially about potential external vibration sources. As low flow Coriolis specialist we work together with knowledge partners like the University of Twente and TNO (a Dutch organization for applied scientific research) to get a continuous improved understanding of this topic.
With in-house test facilities we are able to do special vibration tests. Together with the experience we gained from customer applications and custom made solutions, we are always aiming for improving our Coriolis flow meters to give our customers the best performance they need.
Watch our video explaining the Coriolis principle
Learn more about the Coriolis measuring principle
Read more about the importance of mass flow measurement and the relevance of Coriolis technology in a previous blog.
Check out our success story using Coriolis mass flow controllers for odorisation of our natural gas.