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Laser Vision Keeps Eye on Industrial Fluids

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New laser machine vision systems can monitor the condition of lubricating and hydraulic oils, as well as other fluids in industrial installations without interrupting operations.

“A great deal of effort is expended in changing oil that is still actually useable, which is costly for both the operator and the environment,” said professor Dr. Andreas Schütze of Saarland University and ZeMA, the Centre for Mechatronics and Automation Technology in Saarbrucken. “Our system allows us to identify and avert potential damage early on. We can predict when maintenance work will be needed, and plant operators can plan accordingly.”

Professor Dr. Andreas Schütze (left) and graduate engineer Eliseo Pignanelli (right) demonstrate their fluid measuring system. The oil flows through the measuring cell(center), where it is irradiated with a laser and infrared light. Courtesy of Oliver Dietze, Saarland University.

Schütze’s team has used measurements of how fluids scatter laser light or absorb IR radiation to detect metal particles and more in fluids.

“The system allows us to distinguish between metal dust, other solid particles and air bubbles, and to determine the concentration of each,” said graduate engineer Eliseo Pignanelli.

The researchers had to optimize the optical and mechanical properties of the microsensors’ nanostructured layers, and they also had to adapt them for use at high pressures. The technology is now being developed into a market-ready product. Stationary units can be built into industrial plants, including remote facilities like offshore wind turbines, where data can be monitored remotely. Portable units will also be offered.

Industrial partners include Hydac Electronic GmbH in Gersweiler and EADS Deutschland GmbH (Innovation Works). The research was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Saarland Ministry of Economics and Science, and the European Regional Development Fund.

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Apr 2014
Euro NewsEuropeindustrialinfrared lightlaser lightmachine vision systemsmicrosensorsTechnology Newslasers

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