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:
- Reduction of nitrogen oxides to nitrogen and oxygen: 2NOx → xO2 + N2
- Oxidation of carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide: 2CO + O2 → 2CO2
- 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 excellen repeatability.
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.”
The 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang are getting closer and closer, as temperatures outside are dropping. Athletes have trained for four years or maybe longer for just one goal: to give their absolute best in this – at least for some of the athletes – once in a lifetime opportunity. But, did you ever think about how flow measurement could be of influence on the athletes’ performance? Here’s how…
A few weeks ago I had the chance to visit Relitech in Nijkerk. A company that is specialized in the development and design of reliable healthcare solutions. I talked to both Directors Ivar Donker and Henk van Middendorp about the activities of Relitech in the medical industry and their Metabolic Simulator. With all their enthusiasm and dedication in their line of work, I came to new insights regarding their matter and the importance of a company like Relitech.
In sports it’s all about optimal performance. Athletes are forced to push boundaries and the devil is in the details, more than ever. A few hundreds of a second can make a huge difference in - for example - a gold medal race. So testing the athletes’ condition and endurance is an important part in the bigger picture of their performances. This can help them to train more efficiently and it provides information that can be used for maybe a change in, for example, the athlete’s diet. For metabolic measuring, a lung function device could be used and these systems often easily interfaced with ECG’s, bikes and other external devices for complete, integrated cardiopulmonary exercise testing.
The big question is how to get the best performance by meeting legal regulations? Validation is the magic word. And for that, Relitech developed a metabolic simulator. Let’s take a look at some of the technical details of a device like that.
Metabolic simulator: quality control for respiratory products
In order to keep a high performance of respiratory products like lung function devices, they need to be validated, to meet the demands of legal regulations as well. The current situation in quality control regarding devices like these, is that it’s limited due to the fact that each sensor (O2, CO2 and flow) is calibrated separately, disregarding the critical dynamic interaction between each sensor. Relitech therefore came up with an in-field solution for their customers by developing this metabolic simulator.
Thermal mass flow controller
As we’re getting closer to the answer on the question I asked at the very beginning of this blog, we need to dig a little deeper into the Relitech simulator. First of all it’s fully mobile, which means it’s easy to transport and secondly it is ideal for on-site testing (in for example a lung function device used for athletes). The simulator mixes pure nitrogen and carbon dioxide by using two Bronkhorst thermal mass flow controllers. By mixing those two gases you can generate breathing gas exchange patterns, real-time and extremely close to authentic human breathing patterns. The results are so-called capnographs that resemble the ones of, for example, Olympic athletes. On the readout display of the Metabolic Simulator the capnograph values are visible. V’CO2 represents the exhaled amount of carbon dioxide and V’O2 is the amount of oxygen inhaled. BF is simply an abbreviation for breathing frequency.
“Using mass flow controllers is not new to me…” Van Middendorp explains, “…as I was already involved in designing lung function systems long before I joined Relitech in 2002.”
“As we started developing the metabolic simulator here at Relitech, we were looking for compact and highly accurate mass flow controllers and that’s where Bronkhorst and I crossed paths. So partly by using these compact thermal flow controllers we were able to develop an even more compact simulator design.”
Relitech, reliable technology
With dedication and passion Relitech develops reliable technology by focusing on electronics, software and embedded software. In combination with consultancy regarding measurement technology, their core competence lies within the medical sector, such as lung function measurement, anaesthesia and hyperthermia applications. For this, the company is ISO13485 certified. By working closely with various universities and academical institutes, multinationals and small businesses they have built an impressive and very diverse customer portfolio.
Ready for the Olympics
So, for all the Olympic athletes out there, it’s time to put on the finishing touches and get ready for 2018. Oh and by the way, a Dutch sports data agency predicted that The Netherlands would come to a total of 19 medals in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Let’s see if we can reach or even surpass that…
Check out the application story of quality control for respiratory products.
Miniaturization is a trend you see in our daily life. The tiny house movement is something very popular at this moment, people choosing to downsize the space they live in by moving to a tiny house with an average space of 100-400 square feet. But also in industry miniaturization is a hot item. Mass flow meters and pressure controllers with minimal footprint fit this trend.
Having worked in both the Life Sciences and Analytical industries I am sympathetic to the ever increasing demands for small foot prints and faster instruments. It has been a continuing trend for many years that lab real-estate has become more and more expensive; this led to a drive for footprint reduction of instruments. You had to make sure that size didn’t make you expensive in bench space.
One of the drivers behind this process was the NeSSI system initiative (New Sampling/Sensor Initiative), sponsored by the Centre for Process Analysis and Control. The aim was to reduce the overall costs of engineering, installing and maintaining chemical process analytical systems. In the NeSSI system, mass flow meters and pressure controllers needed a standard footprint of 1.5’’.
Footprint of Mass Flow Meters and Pressure Controllers
This footprint is perfect for a large number of applications and end users, even for some of the Life Science OEM companies that have room to spare in their systems. However, when you are re-designing your system and you have the chance to incorporate new technologies, look at the placement of existing technology and maybe add more. It helps if you can reduce the footprint of the components that you use even further.
Reducing the footprint of a known, working technology has challenges of its own. The design and function of which will be driven by the physical characteristics of the measurement principle and therefore the sensor that it uses. To change this you need to look at alternative measurement technologies as a way to achieve the end goal of the industry, same functionality, same signal, smaller package.
Mass Flow Meters and Pressure Controllers for minimal footprint
Working in conjunction with the TNO, the Netherlands organisation for applied scientific research we designed a new range of mass flow meters and pressure controllers built around MEMS technology. This allowed us to offer solutions with a footprint of 0.75’’, halving the footprint and offering ultra-compact flow controllers.
This has given our customers:
- Compact assembly ensuring space efficiency
- Analog or digital communication
- Top mount and side ports modules, easily accessible
- Pre-testing ’Plug and Play’ manifold assemblies, reducing customer test requirement
To maintain the usefulness of the new instrument you have to have the same functionality. Along with a sensor on a chip, we need a new, smaller control valve, filter options and a smaller pneumatic shut-off valve. To save even more space and build time, customers requested a down-ported version.
The final addition that makes full use of the space saving created by the addition of new technology was to create a manifold system where a customer can design a number of flow channels into a manifold, all well within the internal space limitations they have for their instrument.
This is one of the key themes of our blogs and it is referred to time and again. The Solutions based approach, ending up with a bespoke solution not a standard product with compromises. Innovation in technology must be driven by the customer. If you do not think that a standard flow or pressure solution will meet your needs then let us know and challenge our team, we will be your low flow fluid handling specialist.
Check out our chip-sensor based mass flow meter/controllers or the Pressure Controllers using MEMS technology.
This miniaturization trend is observed in many places as can be read in our blog Customized low flow measurement systems to support winning Solution factories.
Throughout the year we try to bring you articles that will be of technical or commercial interest; information that may help in improving a process or developing a new product.
For our last post of 2017 we offer you 12 facts that have no technical nor commerical value (unless they help you win a friendly wager), and are meant for nothing more than a little fun.
The first color of Coca-Cola was green.
The words orange, purple and silver can not be rhymed.
The ear of a cat has 32 muscles.
Alaska has the highest percentage of people who walk to work.
Tongue prints are as unique as fingerprints.
Ireland is the only country in the world where windmills turn clockwise.
The can was invented 48 years before the can opener.
Cow attacks occur more often than shark attacks.
The sport with the most deaths is golf.
Screeched is the longest one-syllable word in the English language.
There are 118 groves on a dime, a quarter has one more.
A mule will not sink in quicksand a donkey will.
May you have a Happy and Prosperous New Year!
Each industrial process starts on laboratory scale to define the important parameters efficiently. These parameters might be pressure, temperature, flow but also cost efficiency and standing times. The process with the highest yield is not automatically the most efficient one. For example in catalysis or exhaust/raw gas purification it is very important to find the economically best materials and parameters. From the laboratory beaker to bulk is the process which starts at a microscale and ends with a fully operating industrial process. In between often a pilot stage is included.
Biogas Purification Testing
In Pressure Swing Adsorption systems (PSA), adsorption processes are used for the purification of bio- or natural gas. Thereby, the preferred adsorption of CO2 by zeolites or carbon-based sorbents is used to generate highly pure methane. This methane can be used for heat and power generation, offering an alternative to fossil fuels. Particularly in case of pressure swing adsorption systems, new materials are continuously being developed and evaluated, promising optimized efficiency caused by better sorptive separation properties. Laboratory scale studies are of special interest as the potential of new materials as well as the associated economics of corresponding industrial processes can be assessed in advance.
Breakthrough Measurements on Laboratory Scale
The Rubolab GmbH has been a spin-off from Rubotherm GmbH, Germany and the Ruhr-University in Bochum, Germany. Rubolab offers a broad versified portfolio of different adsorption measurement instruments. As Managing Director of Rubolab, I developed the worldwide first manometric high pressure adsorption screening instrument in 2012. During the last years, dynamic adsorption measurement instruments, so called Breakthough Analyzers, have gained increasing importance. In this context, Rubolab offers costumized instruments for the evaluation of novel sorbents in smallest amounts (MiniBTC series).
High pressure resistant vessels are filled with the materials which have to be analyzed. Afterwards this adsorber bed is pressurized using defined gas flows. A corresponding flow sheet of the instrument is shown in the following figure.
In the example above, the sorptive separation of CO2 and CH4 is investigated. In this case, CO2 is adsorbed by the material while the gas is flowing through the fixed bed. A high-purity methane stream is recovered at the top end of the adsorber column.
Three temperature sensors are positioned at different heights within the adsorber column. Due to the exothermic adsorption process, a temperature change within the adsorber bed can be detected, indicating the so-called Mass Transfer Zone (MTZ) going through the fixed bed. When this zone reaches the adsorber head, a corresponding breakthrough can be observed by using downstream gas analysis. Thereby the measured CO2 concentration in the product stream approaches the CO2 concentration of the feed stream. In larger industrial systems the adsorber should be regenerated at this time. This kind of experimental data provides information about adsorption capacities of the substances being investigated.
Mass Flow Controller and pressure regulation valves
For the highly accurate controlling of mass flows and downstream pressures these instruments are equipped with Bronkhorst mass flow controller and pressure regulation valves. In particular devices of the newest generation of mass flow controllers, the Bronkhorst EL-FLOW Prestige series, are used in corresponding laboratory instruments for high end accuracy and versatility. In other devices where the size is of high importance, the Bronkhorst IQ+FLOW series is used to take advantage of it’s very compact size and the possibility to set up small manifolds.
Mass Flow Controller of the EL-FLOW Prestige Series
EL-FLOW Prestige mass flow controllers and meters are highly versatile instruments with their onboard database for gases and mixtures. So it is easy to react on changing customer needs without the necessity to purchase another instrument, when the test gas changes. The Prestige guarantees highly accurate and reproducible gas flow due to an automatic temperature correction, newly designed sensor and valve technology.
Mass Flow Controller of the IQ+FLOW Series
The IQ+FLOW series consists of ultra compact mass flow meters, controllers and also pressure controllers, which are designed for analytical instruments with limited space. The integrated chip technology enables fast measurement and control down to smallest ammounts. 3-Channel devices designed for customer’s application are also available.
What is FLUIDAT?
FLUIDAT is Bronkhorst’s online calculation software. It allows our end users to make many theoretical calculations for their instruments and also have access to over 800 different fluid properties and corresponding data.
Working with fluids and ever changing process conditions can provide many challenges, especially when trying to understand the behaviour of the given fluid depending on the actual pressure and temperature of the process. Along with understanding the behaviour of your particular fluid or fluid mixture making sure that you select an instrument that is able to operate effectively to the level you expect and that meets your application’s demands. In this case the initial selection of the correct instrument is fundamental, understanding what is possible for the future of your instrument can however be just as important.
This is where FLUIDAT can assist by allowing our end users to fully understand their instruments capability. If it’s working at different pressure conditions or using a completely different fluid for example, FLUIDAT can allow you to make an informed decision about whether or not the instrument is up for the task at hand. Of course, sometimes we have to accept that returning the instrument for recalibration is the only option but with FLUIDAT at your fingertips you have the ability to make an informed choice.
Traditionally, fluid data has been stored in technical handbooks and manuals with graphs and tables of data in a listed format demonstrating fluid properties along with their coefficients. However, this is a very inflexible format and does not allow immediate access to changing fluid behaviour (due to external factors) without making what can sometimes be complex calculations.
Knowing that these challenges were sometimes a hindrance to our end users, Bronkhorst released this on-line fluid management programme to support our customers in a way we never had before. This on-line programme allows immediate data and calculations relating to the behaviour of thousands of fluids under different working conditions.
One example of this is our Controlled Evaporation Mixing (CEM) vapour generation calculation tool. To calculate the output vapour to the process you need to calculate the combination and vaporisation properties of both a liquid and gas at differing temperatures and flow rates. Our CEM calculation tool can make this task easy, at just a click of a button.
The newly added interactive Vapour-Pressure line allows users to simply glide the cursor over the chosen fluid graph to establish the phase at the given temperature and pressure. Added value comes from the ability to create and save your own fluid mixtures, which alone can remove hours of calculations and research from a single project.
OK, so let’s have a look in more detail at some of the calculation tools available in FLUIDAT.
Gas Conversion Factor
Here, the end user can choose a pure gas or create a gas mixture to find the conversion factor for a different gas to which an instrument can be sized on. As with most thermal mass flow controllers the output signal from the MFC is determined by which gas it has been calibrated for. With the gas conversion factor tool you simply choose the ‘Fluid from’ and ‘Fluid to’ to find out the conversion / correction factor. You can also select your exact model to improve the accuracy of the conversion. This function also allows you to add the specific pressure and temperature conditions you are converting from and to, for even more accuracy. The conversion factor can then be applied to the output measurement of the MFC to know the actual flow of the new gas.
Example of a gas conversion made in FLUIDAT:
Controlled Evaporation Mixing (CEM) Calculation Tool
A CEM system can be an extremely versatile addition to any vapour generation requirement. FLUIDAT allows the end user to make various calculations to not only enable the correct CEM heater temperature setting , the flow rates required for both the liquid and gas instruments and the relative humidity of the generated vapour. It is also possible to back calculate the flow rates needed to achieve the required relative humidity of your vapour. All of the fluid data is stored within the FLUIDAT software, the heat capacity, thermal conductivity and heat of vaporisation to name a few. This data can also be accessed by the user under the ‘Fluid Properties’ calculation.
The possibilities of the CEM calculation tool are endless, from knowing the pressures needed to supply the liquid and gas MFCs to calculating the vapour temperature on the outlet, or knowing the flow of the vapour output and having the ability to choose between thousands of different fluids to make your calculations. This makes FLUIDAT a ‘must-have’ for any Bronkhorst customer using our CEM vapour delivery systems.
Example of a CEM calculation in FLUIDAT:
Pressure Drop Calculations
For most applications it is important for the end user to understand the pressure drop across the instrument. It is not only important to understand the pressure loss across a device but sometimes it can also be critical to know the required pressure for the instrument to function correctly, especially when using control valves.
In FLUIDAT it is possible to calculate the pressure drop for both our gas instruments and our mini-Coriolis Series. Calculating the pressure drop using FLUIDAT is easy, all you need to do is select the correct pressure drop calculation tool. You have the choice of selecting our MASS-STREAM, EL-FLOW/IN-FLOW or Coriolis Instruments.
The calculation tool for the Coriolis Instruments is called ‘CoriCalc’ and for the other instruments are referred to as ‘Pressure Difference D-6300’ or ‘Pressure Difference LOW-dP-FLOW and EL-FLOW'. Once you have selected the correct tool and instrument type you can then select the fluid and flow rate and simply hit the calculate button. You can choose to readout the pressure drop in many different units from mbar to psi for example. For meters this is pretty straight forward, the pressure drop will be displayed across the sensor and fittings and yes, you can also choose the fitting size and type in many situations.
This calculation tool can also demonstrate the minimum required inlet pressure to flow the fluid you want at the required flow rate. Without the complication of the control valve calculating for meters is relatively straight forward. When making calculations involving both a meter and control valve (e.g. in a controller), it is important to make sure your calculation includes the correct selected orifice for your given controller, the easiest way to do this is using the inlet and outlet pressures to be used.
Example of a Pressure Drop Calculation in FLUIDAT:
FLUIDAT is an extremely useful and powerful tool for those using Bronkhorst instruments. It allows an end user access to additional information which can be used to not only enhance the potential of our instruments but also allows our customers to gain an advantage over competitors and gain an understanding of mass flow. The above examples are just a snippet of some of the tools available.
Please register at www.fluidat.com to take full advantage of this free online software.