Refractometers for Pulp and Paper Processing

The Electron Machine MPR E-Scan has numerous applications in the paper industry. The most common applications are on black liquor and green liquor. Electron Machine Corporation pioneered the use of refractometers to accurately measure black liquor dissolved solids nearly 50 years ago.


Black Liquor is the waste product from the process of digesting pulpwood into paper pulp by removing various elements to free the cellulose fibers. Electron Machine's long history with this application has resulted in numerous design features that specifically address problems associated with this harsh process measurement.

Green liquor is the dissolved concentration of sodium sulfide, sodium carbonate, and other compounds from the recovery boiler in the paper making process.  Electron Machine Corporation has been actively refining the use of refractometers for measuring green liquor density for over 30 years. The current system uses the MPR E-Scan refractometer combined with heated high-pressure water for cleaning. The resulting combination provides an effective removal of optical coatings by reducing thermal changes, minimizing maintenance to allow for a reliable measurement source for on-line automatic control.

The MDS Monitor Divert System is a BLRBAC compliant Black Liquor solids monitoring system designed specifically for Black Liquor recovery boilers. The MDS Monitor Divert System consists of two completely independent MPR E-Scan Hybrid-Digital refractometers with a separate monitor console that supervises the proper operation of each refractometer. The monitor constantly insures that all parameters remain within operational limits and applies the proper divert or alarm actions should a fault or low solids liquor be detected. A built-in printer records all actions with a date and time stamp. The entire system is designed to be user friendly with large daylight-readable color displays and an intuitive menu-driven interface.

The MPR E-Scan also gives paper companies the ability to accurately control the washing line, by detecting changes in the total dissolved solids coming off the washers. This precise measurement allows effective control of the fresh water flow to the washers, reducing excessive water usage. Combining the measurement with data- analysis tools, a company can monitor inefficiencies in the washing line and evaluate the washing results. Allowing improvements in washing efficiency and overall reduction in water. The MPR E- Scan will reduce the overall time needed to meet target dilution. With near instant readings of black liquor concentration and temperature, the instrument removes the reliance on offline testing. 

For more information, visit http://www.electronmachine.com or call 352-669-3101.

Industrial Refractometers in Brownstock Washing

Pulp and paper mill
Pulp and paper mill.
In pulp and paper production, brown stock washers are used to recover cooking chemicals from pulp production and are critical for maximizing chemical recovery which impacts the financial success and environmental compliance of a pulp mill.

The purpose of brownstock washing is to remove soluble matter from the pulp while using the least amount of water. Efficient washing improves the recovery of cooking chemicals, reduces the use of chemicals during bleaching, increase pulp quality and helps reduce deposit buildup. By utilizing a refractometer to measure the black liquor solids in the feed and outlet stock lines, and the incoming and outgoing filtrate lines, a paper company can experience increased control and cost savings.

The Electron Machine MPR E-Scan gives paper companies the ability to accurately control the washing line, by detecting changes in the total dissolved solids coming off the washers. This precise measurement allows effective control of the fresh water flow to the washers, reducing excessive water usage.

Combining the measurement with data analysis tools, a company can monitor inefficiencies in the washing line and evaluate the washing results. Allowing improvements in washing efficiency and overall reduction in water. The MPR E- Scan will reduce the overall time needed to meet target dilution. With near instant readings of black liquor concentration and temperature, the instrument removes the reliance on offline testing.

The MPR E-Scan is constructed of various alloys to ensure a long service life in a harsh chemical environment. With our customer pipeline adapters, the instruments can be implemented into any process. Due to the unique measurement principle, the instrument's readings are unaffected by bubbles, particles, fibers, color, flow, pressure or vibration. By utilizing the instrument to control and monitor the brownstock washing, paper companies can guarantee that proper dilution was met and maintained.

Electron Machine MPR E-Scan
Electron Machine MPR E-Scan
KEY BENEFITS
  • Increased washing efficiency
  • Continuous accurate control of dilution factor
  • Consistent pulp quality Increased evaporator efficiency
  • Reduced wash loss and decrease wash water
  • Error and Warning light indications Reduced time for correct wash concentration
  • Continuous temperature readings 
Learn more about industrial refractometers and their application in the pulp and paper process by visiting the Electron Machine website at http://electronmachine.com or by calling 352-669-3101.

DCR E-Scan Hybrid-Digital Refractometer

DCR E-Scan
The DCR E-Scan is a hybrid-digital critical angle refractometer. It is used to measure the refractive index of process fluids and may be used as an integral part of a complete process control system.

With an extremely durable Sapphire prism as the foundation, the hybrid-digital design provides digital accuracy with rugged components in the sensing head. This combination produces the essential dependability required for years of use when installed in harsh industrial environments.

The DCR E-Scan is the cost-effective refractometer for an accurate and dependable reading. Electron Machine Corporation calibrates each DCR E-Scan specifically for the intended application. The digital display coupled with the 4-20mA output provides the complete control desired at an affordable cost without sacrificing the rugged reliability desired for today's industrial applications.

Don't Forget Customer Support and Technical Support When Buying Process Instruments

Happy Customer Service
Make sure your vendor's Customer Service and Tech Support
are knowledgeable, experienced, and ENTHUSIASTIC.
Today, many engineers do their product selection largely via the Internet, and usually by just comparing specifications between manufacturers. While this provides a fast, efficient, and objective means to narrow down prospective vendors, it totally ignores a critically important (albeit subjective) component to the success of their project - the vendor's Customer and Technical Support infrastructure.

When choosing a vendor for process instrumentation (industrial refractometers for instance), it's imperative to include an evaluation of the vendor's Technical Support and Customer Support infrastructure. Realizing what these professionals have to contribute, and taking advantage of their knowledge and talent, will save time and money, and greatly contribute to a successful project outcome.

Understanding Why Technical Support and Customer Support are Critical

It's all about two things:
  1. Experience
  2. Attitude

Experience


"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." Red Adair

By the nature of their job, Customer Service personnel are current on new products, their capabilities and their proper application. Unlike anecdotal information available on the Web, support personnel have first hand knowledge and hands-on experience. They've seen successful (and unsuccessful) product implementation scenarios and are eager to share. A brief discussion about your application with a specialist will guide you toward selecting the best equipment for the requirement. Also, because they are exposed to so many different applications and situations, Customer/Tech Support personnel are a wealth of ancillary application knowledge.

As a project engineer, you may be treading on fresh ground regarding some aspects of fully understanding the project you're working on. You may not have a full grasp on how to handle a particular challenge presented by the application. Calling upon a source with past exposure and experience to your current application prior to product selection will provide a very real, and very valuable benefit.

Attitude:


"Customer service is not a department, it’s everyone’s job." Anonymous

Choose a company that places a huge emphasis on customer service and do some due-diligence. Determine if they're merely providing lip service, or if extreme customer service oozes from the company pores. 

Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart once said "The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best, but legendary." Make sure the vendor you're evaluating sees things the same way.  While reviews or testimonials (if there are any) can be helpful, they should be viewed judiciously. You're going to have to talk to people and get your own "gut-feel".  Do the employee's seem upbeat and happy? Are they knowledgeable? If they can't answer a question, do they volunteer to connect you with someone who can?  Are they enthusiastic?

As an engineer who designs or manufactures a product or process, it's strongly recommended you make the effort to research, contact, and get a first-hand feel for your prospective vendor's Customer and Technical Support Team. Learn about their product and application knowledge, their experience and their commitment to excellence. Taking the time to do this will raise the likelihood that your project will come in on time, on budget and shine brightly upon you.

A BLRBAC Compliant Monitoring System Designed Specifically for Black Liquor Recovery Boilers

MDS Monitor Divert System
MDS Monitor Divert System
The Electron Machine Corporation manufactures a BLRBAC compliant Black Liquor solids monitoring system designed specifically for Black Liquor Recovery Boilers.

The Black Liquor Recovery Boiler Advisory Committee is a group that exists for the purpose of generating safety procedures and guidelines that govern the operation of Black Liquor Recovery Boilers.  The BLRBAC was formed in 1961 by several groups of concerned professionals that had become alarmed by the number of Black Liquor Recovery Boiler explosions. 

The MDS Monitor Divert System consists of two completely independent MPR E-Scan Hybrid-Digital refractometers with a separate monitor console that supervises the proper operation of each refractometer. The monitor constantly insures that all parameters remain within operational limits and applies the proper divert or alarm actions should a fault or low solids liquor be detected. A built-in printer records all actions with a date and time stamp. The entire system is designed to be user friendly with large daylight-readable color displays and an intuitive menu-driven interface.

Isolation Valves are also required to meet the BLRBAC guidelines and allow the refractometer sensing heads to be isolated from an active pipeline should maintenance be needed. The system closely monitors the position of these isolation valves to verify that the refractometers are in service.

All functions of the MDS Monitor Divert System are automatic. For example, should a refractometer fault occur the unit is electronically removed from service and an alarm is activated. Simultaneously the output signal is driven low to warn the operator to disregard this reading. The monitor system then isolates, displays the fault and provides a hard copy record on the built-in printer. Liquor diversion is now controlled by the refractometer in service.
    MDS Monitor Divert System
  • Intelligent purge function- ensures the proper cleaning and extends prism life 
  • Divert trending - provides an actual time left before a diversion when liquor solids are declining 
  • Password protection- to protect critical software areas
The MDS Monitor Divert System is pre-wired and mounted on a panel for easy installation. All customer connections are made to a single terminal strip. Standard output is a 4-20mA for liquor concentration with relay contacts for liquor divert, alarms, and system error indicators. A remote divert input is also available. The system can be provided in an optional stainless steel enclosure with either a vortex-cooler or fan ventilation depending on the specified mounting location.

For more information on the BLRBAC visit here.
For more information on the MDS Monitor Divert System visit here.

Inline Process Refractometers in Tomato Processing

Tomato Processing
Inline Process Refractometers in Tomato Processing
It's obvious that tomato processors have a need to predict product yield, consistency and quality, as these variables directly affect sales and profitability. However, consistency and quality in tomato products is fairly difficult to control because of the fruit variation, harvest maturity, and farming area.

Consumers often select tomato sauces, pastes, purees and dressings based on sweetness levels, so it's very important food producers to accurately control sweetness. The common method for measuring sweetness in this industry is by reading Brix. Degrees Brix (°Bx) is the measure of the amount of sugar in an aqueous solution and is used because it's reliable and fast.

Refractometry is used to determine degrees Brix, and refractometers are the instruments used for the measurement. Very basically, refractometers use a prism to determine how light bends through a substance. The change in light direction is then used to repeatably determine certain values - in this case Brix.

There are several types of refractometers in food processing. Many food processing labs do batch sampling through the use of hand-held refractometers. Another type is the inline process refractometer.  It is used to provide a Brix measuring control loop right on the production line, and can be employed anywhere in the overall process from evaporation stages up to the concentrated final product.

Inline Process Refractometers
Inline Process Refractometer
Inline process refractometers are installed using a sanitary-type pipe adapter, designed and manufactured to appropriate 3-A Sanitary Standards. Should the tomato product be known to produce stubborn coatings on the refractometer prism, a steam port is added to the adapter to allow the prism to be steam cleaned at specific intervals.

The head of the refractometer is mounted directly in the processing line and provides real-time detection of Brix with a measurable output. The refractometer's circuitry then conditions the head's output and compares it to a desired value in a controller. The controller provides a corrective output signal, such as 4-20mA, to a final control element, such as a control valve. The control valve increases or decreases the amount of an ingredient to keep things in balance. Not unlike any other process control variable (pressure, temperature, level or flow), Brix measurement is determined and controlled via it's own control loop by the inline process refractometer,  providing the tomato processor greater control over product quality and consistency.

For more information on the use of inline process refractometers in tomato processing, contact Electron Machine at 352-669-3101 or visit http://electronmachine.com.

Refractometers for Food and Beverage Processing

Refractometers commonly used to detect sugar levels and properties of jams juices, beverages, dairy products and much more.

Electron Machine Corporation developed the first in-line process refractometer more than 50 years ago when orange juice was first concentrated. Since that time, their refractometers have been successfully applied on many more applications including the production of sucrose, fructose, dextrose, soft drinks, fruit juices, dairy, apple sauce, jams, jellies, beer, wine, coffee, tea, vegetable oils, tomato paste, ice cream and honey.

With an extremely durable Sapphire prism as its foundation, the Electron Machine MPR E-Scan combines accurate measurements with ruggedized components in the sensing head combining for years of of dependable and accurate service in harsh food production environments.

Inline Refractometer Adapters, Cleaning Systems & Isolation Valves

There are many different mounting adapters available for the MPR E-Scan refractometer. These adapters have been designed and modified with decades of field experience to provide the most successful installation for specific applications. The video below provides a quick visual tour of the most popular.

For more information visit http://www.electronmachine.com or call 352-669-3101.

Understanding the Use of Inline Refractometers in Food and Beverage Production

refractometers for jams and jelly production
Inline refractometers are used
for jam and jelly production to
ensure consistency and quality.
This post is intended to give a basic understanding of the use of inline refractometers in commercial food and beverage production

Refraction

According to Wikipedia, "Refraction is the change in direction of wave propagation due to a change in its transmission medium."

To understand more clearly, consider this. If you place a pencil in a jar of standing in water and look through the jar, it appears to be broken at the water line. When you add sugar to the water, the pencil appears to bend even more. The reason for this is because light travels slower in water than through air. When you dissolve materials (sugar) in the solution, the light will travel even slower.  Understanding this basic concept allows you to understand how you can measure, and therefore control, the concentration on a material in a solution through the use of refraction.

Refractive Index

The refractive index (RI), is the ratio between the speed of light in vacuum and the speed of light in a given media. It determines how much light is bent, or refracted, when entering a material. The Refractive Index of air is 1.0003, and the RI of most gases, liquids, and solids is between 1 and 2.

Refractive Index is defined as:
  • RI= Speed of Light in Vacuum / Speed of Light in a Particular Medium
Applying Refraction to Food and Beverage Processing

Food and beverage industries prefer to use their own units rather than the index of refraction for controlling quality of their product. Examples are measuring sugar content in tomato products, citrus juices, and jams and jellies. These industries prefer to use the % Brix scale, which refers to the sugar concentration. Refractive Index is easily converted to % Brix units through simple calculations.

Inline Refractometers for Large Scale Food and Beverage Production

Industrial inline refractometers directly measure the Refractive Index of process fluids and then display the reading in any number of customer-desired units such as Brix, Percent Solids, Dissolved Solids, etc. 

refractometer in food and beverage process
Inline refractometer in food and beverage process
highlighting sensing element and electronics console.
There are two primary components to an inline refractometer, the electronics console and the sensing head.  

The electronics console usually contains a display of some type, and provides a standard output such as 4-20mA. Optionally, there may be some form of networking protocol such as HART® or RS-232/422. 

The sensing head is installed in line by mounting the prism assembly in a pipe and inserting this pipe section in the process line. Vessel mounting is accommodated by having the prism assembly inserted in a flange that can be attached to a storage tank or mixing tank. 

For more information on any commercial or industrial application for inline refractometers, contact visit Electron Machine at http://www.electronmachine.com or call 352-669-3101.

Industrial Refractive Index Transmitters

Loop diagram
Example flow loop diagram
showing role of transmitter.
Transmitters are process control field devices. They receive input from a connected process sensor, then convert the sensor signal to an output signal using a transmission protocol. The output signal is passed to a monitoring, control, or decision device for use in documenting, regulating, or monitoring a process or operation.

Transmitters are available for almost every measured parameter in process control, and often referred to according to the process condition which they measure.

The refractive index determines how much light is bent, or refracted, when entering a material. When light moves from one medium to another, it changes direction (refracted). This change in the direction of the light can be measured and applied to properties of the material.

Refractive Index transmitter
Example of Industrial Refractive Indextransmitter/controller.
Can act as transmitter alone, or with
optional PID control functions.
Industrial Refractive Index transmitters directly measure the refractive index of process fluids. It then conditions the input signal, making it linear, and then converts that signal into any number of customer-desired units (Brix, Percent Solids, Dissolved Solids, SGU, R.I., etc.) and transmits a standard, linear electrical output (4 to 20 mA) that can be utilized by receiving instruments and displays.

Many transmitters are provided with higher order functions in addition to merely converting an input signal to an output signal. On board displays, keypads, Bluetooth connectivity, and a host of industry standard communication protocols can also be had as an integral part of many process transmitters. Other functions that provide alarm or safety action are more frequently part of the transmitter package, as well.

Industrial Refractive Index transmitters have evolved from simple signal conversion devices to higher functioning, efficient, easy to apply and maintain instruments utilized for providing input to process control systems.

For more information on Industrial Refractive Index transmitters visit Electron Machine at http://www.electronmachine.com or call 352-669-3101.

New Electron Machine Marketing Video

Here is a new Electron Machine marketing video. Thanks to our loyal customers around the world for your support and business. Electron Machine continues to develop innovative products that apply the refractive index for greater efficiency and safety in industrial production.

Incorporate Inline Industrial Refractometers for Better Quality and Higher Yields

inline refractometer
Inline refractometer in sanitary application.
Process refractometry provides an excellent method to determine the concentration of compounds (dissolved solids, proteins, chemicals) in a liquid or paste-like substance. By using the refractive index, industrial refractometry supplies real-time, accurate data to process control systems for higher quality and more efficient production. Some specific industries finding the use of industrial, inline refractometers of high value are:
Process refractometry enables real-time monitoring and control of a process based on the comparison of a known or "control" sample of a media's desired concentration, versus the value of the product moving through the production line.  Industrial refractometry measures the concentration of compounds in a process media by determining it's refractive index and it’s temperature. The actual measurement is done by monitoring the refraction of light as it passes through the process media. At a certain "critical" angle of incidence, the source light is reflected rather than refracted. This critical angle can be correlated to the properties of the process media, and provides a marker that is used to determine a standard for the desired production output. By knowing this variable, at a known temperature, the concentration of specific compounds in the process media can be calculated and precisely controlled.

The use of inline refractometers for determining concentrations of  in solutions provides a fast, accurate measurement and response for process optimization and quality achievement. They dramatically lower cost by improving consistency, reducing waste, and increasing yield.

Industrial Refractometry Pioneer Carl Vossberg, Jr. Foresaw the Need

Carl A. Vossberg, Jr.
Carl A. Vossberg, Jr.
Electron Machine Corporation founder Carl Vossberg, Jr. was a pioneer in the application of refractometers of industrial use. As the holder of more than 30 technical patents, Mr. Vossberg dedicated his life to improving industrial processes through refractometry, measurement, and control.

His biography reveals how his dedication to industrial refractometry led Electron Machine to its leadership position in the industrial refractometer market.


Carl A. Vossberg, Jr., (born July 16, 1918) was an American electrical engineer, inventor, and entrepreneur in the electronic instrumentation industry. He is known for more than 30 technical patents in the area of refractometry, measurement, and control. Vossberg also founded Electron-Machine Corporation, the company responsible for the introduction of inline process refractometers as a measuring system for the pulp & paper, food, and chemical processing industries.

Vossberg began his college education at the City College of the City of New York (CCNY), studying electronics, and was awarded a BEE in Electrical Engineering from CCNY and a MS in Electrical Engineering (EE) from Columbia University. He also attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During WWII, Vossberg worked for the U.S. Office of Strategic Service (now CIA) participating in the development of remote radio transponders, artillery tracking systems, weapon fire detection controllers, and video transmission.

Vossberg entered the profession as a radio engineer for RCA and designed circuits and established radio facsimile facilities for the Office of War information. Later he became Chief Engineer for Standard Electronics Research Corporation, where his duties were to originate and direct the research and development programs and supervise engineering and technical personnel in electronics, x-rays, communication, instrumentation and process controls. He was also Vice President of Research and Developments, Inc., and Vice President of Industrial Gauges Corporation.

After the war, Vossberg set out to apply electronics technology to industrial applications. Electron Machine Corporation was formed in 1946 for the purpose of designing automatic electronic gaging and indicating equipment. The company was established in the back of a radiator repair shop in Lynbrook, New York. Instruments for diameter and thickness measurements for steel and cable products were conceived, developed, and licensed to other manufacturers. These instruments included the first commercial x-ray thickness gage, optical cable diameter gages, and an industrial process control computer. In 1950 he, in partnership, formed the Industrial Gauges Corporation and later established Research Developments, Inc., as a subsidiary. This expansion provided the manufacturing facilities for the products developed by the Electron Machine Company.

Engineering, manufacturing and design continues today with the third generation of Vossberg leadership. As a vertically-integrated manufacturer, Electron Machine continues the Founder's legacy of manufacturing inline industrial refractometers that solve the most challenging industrial applications while providing the highest levels of service and support to customers.

Inline Refractometers Used in Commercial Food and Beverage Production

refractometers for food processing
Refractometers assist in consistent quality
in commercial food and beverage processing.
All commercial food brands must assure a level of quality their users have grown to expect. A change in their product's quality can trigger a change in the customer's buying habits. The ability to provide consistent quality and taste is key to happy customers and continued sales.

For producers of many commercial food products, such as wine, fruit juice, jams, and carbonated beverages, a critical way to control quality is by measuring "Brix".

Brix is a unit of measurement used to to establish the concentration of sucrose and other sugars (as well as other dissolved solids) in aqueous solutions. When evaluating sweetness, one degree Brix (symbol °Bx) is defined as 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of solution, and represents the strength of the solution as percentage by mass.

Inline refractometers provide commercial food,  juice and wine producers critical information about the make-up of their product. Many commercial food processing plants use refractometers to blend their products to consistent Brix level, thus assuring consistency. Because the dissolution of sucrose and other sugars in a solution changes the solution’s refractive index, measuring this change can be used reliably to measure consistency and quality. A refractometer works by shining an LED light source from a range of angles, through a product sample, onto a prism surface. By measuring the difference in the reflection and refraction of the light source, a critical angle can be determined and the refractive index can be accurately calculated.  This measurement and calculation can be done accurately, repeatably, and with speed, so inline refractometers have proven themselves reliable instruments for the measurement of Brix in all food processing applications.

Typical applications for the measurement of sucrose, fructose, and dextrose by an inline refractometer:
  • Soft drinks, fruit juices, dairy.
  • Apple sauces, jams and jellies.
  • Beer wine, coffee, and tea.
  • Vegetable oils.
  • Tomato pastes and sauces.
  • Honey.
For any questions about the use of refractometry in food and beverage processing, contact Electron Machine Company at 352-669-3101 or visit http://www.electronmachine.com.

What is Refraction?

diagram 1 refraction
Diagram 1
Light rays travel through space in a straight line at approximately 300,000 km/s. As light passes through a transparent medium, such as water or glass, its speed is decreased.

For glass, its reduced to 200,000 kilometers per second, and for water the speed is 225,000 kilometers per second.

If the light enters into a medium perpendicular to the surface, it passes straight through but at a slower speed. However if the light beam arrives at the medium surface at an angle, not only will it speed be reduced, but it will bend due to a process called refraction.

To better visualize this phenomenon let's look at Diagram 1. As a beam of light reaches the surface of a medium the lower portion enters first and is slow down. However, the upper portion is still traveling at the speed of light until it arrives at the surface and enters.
 
This speed difference at the top and bottom aspects of the light path causes it to pivot, bending toward what is referred to as the normal. This is an imaginary line drawn perpendicularly to the surface of the material.
   
Transparent materials have what is called a refractive index. This is the speed at which light travels in a medium compared to like traveling in a vacuum.
     
For example, typical glass has a refractive index of 1.33. This is calculated by dividing the speed of light in a vacuum (300,000 km/s) by the speed of light in glass (225,000 km/s).
     
The refractive index of air is 1.0003. Anytime a light beam travels from a medium with a low index of refraction, like air, to a medium with a higher index of refraction, like glass, the beam of light will bend toward the normal.
     
Likewise when the beam of light exits a highly refractive medium into a medium with the low index of refraction, the process is reversed.
     
The bottom portion of the beam of light exits first, and resumes at the speed of light, with the top portion still at the speed determined by the medium. This causes the beam to pivot away from the normal line.

The World's Most Rugged Inline Process Refractometers

Electron Machine manufactures the world's most rugged industrial, in-line refractometers used in pulp & paper processing, chemical production, and food and beverage processing.

The company is renowned for manufacturing industrial inline refractometers that hold up to the rigorous environments and the steady demands in these applications. These refractometers are built to withstand the most harsh conditions while delivering reliable and consistent readings and providing safe, reliable, and accurate process measurement and control.

Electron Machine inline refractometers are used in numerous applications in the paper industry such as black liquor, and green liquor sensing; in the food industry to detect sugar levels and properties of jams juices, beverages, and dairy product; and in the chemical industry to measure the strength of a chemical when diluted with water or another chemical.

For more information, visit http://www.electronmachine.com.

Industrial Refractometry: The Very Basics

Industrial Refractometry
Most objects can be evaluated quantitatively and qualitatively. Determining the number of cars on a highway is a quantitative calculation; determining the color of a car is a qualitative calculation. In the process control industry, analyzing the qualitative and quantitative natures of a product is one of the most important steps in ensuring a manufacturer is delivering their clients not only the best product, but making sure that every product made is the best product.

If you’ve ever cracked open a crisp, cold beer on a Sunday, sampled a great wine, or asked yourself, “why does this soda taste so good?” you’ve had experience with what the process control industry calls “industrial refractometry.” Pink Floyd’s album cover for Dark Side of the Moon, where a beam of light hits a prism at a certain angle and then exits the other side in multiple colors, illustrates a core component of refractometry. Refractometry measures the speed at which light passes through an object.

Here’s how evaluating a substance with a refractometer works: a substance is placed on top of a prism. Then, a beam of light shines through the prism and reflects through the substance. The refractometer compares how much slower (or faster) light travels through the object compared to the speed of light through air. The comparison allows the evaluator to determine qualitative aspects of the substance, such as the density or concentration. For standardization purposes, the speed at which light passes through air has a refractive index (RI) value of 1. If a substance has an RI value of 1.16, light travels 16% quicker through air compared to the substance on the prism. Depending on the color and temperature of the reflected light, even more qualitative characteristics of the substance can be determined.

Electron Machine Inline Refractometer
Electron Machine Inline Industrial Refractometer

While the process won’t always help determine what exactly a substance is (different substances can have the same RI values), refractometry is essential in determining how something is. If a corporation knows the RI value of a liquid product, they can ensure each iteration of said product is precisely made, quantitatively and qualitatively. When two substances are being combined to create one resulting substance, refractometry can show exactly how close the combined substance is to being an accurate fusion.

Overall, refractometry is used by industrial companies as a control method. Industry professionals use refractometers to perform evaluations; these refractometers range from small, hand-held devices to full-powered, computer-controlled precision machines which measure the quality of every product coming out of on an assembly line. Refractometry is an objective way to prove standards are being met while achieving production excellence, making refractometry an extremely valuable tool for industrially geared businesses of almost every size.

So, the next time you want to combine coffee and creamer, if you know the refractive value of the best cup of coffee, you could use your own refractometer to measure how close you are to the perfect morning blend!

Control Boiler Cleaning Chemicals with Inline Refractometry

Inline industrial refractometer for acide use
Inline industrial refractometer for boiler cleaning acids.
Chemical cleaning has been considered a necessary part of boiler maintenance for many years. The objective of a chemical cleaning is to safely remove all the deposits from the inside of the boiler tubes. Proper chemical cleaning removes deposits from the inside of boiler tubes which improves the boiler heat rate, reduces tube failures and improves the stability of boiler chemistry. However, chemical cleaning can cause severe damage to the boiler if proper chemical dilution is not maintained.

The MPR E-Scan allows chemical cleaning companies the ability to control acid dilution to strict specification. This insures the proper cleaning dilution is achieved while reducing the risk of over shooting the target control point causing costly damage. By installing the instrument in-line after the dilution point, the MPR E-Scan provides real time control, trending and data logging information to operators insuring the required chemical dilution is achieved and remains constant. This will reduce the overall time needed to meet target dilution, saving time and minimizing the boiler downtime.

The MPR E-Scan can be constructed of various alloys to ensure a long service life in a harsh chemical environment. By utilizing the instrument to control and monitor the cleaning solution, chemical cleaning companies can assure customers that proper dilution was met and maintained. When the job is completed, the cleaning company can provide their customer with documentation of both the process dilution and temperature throughout the entire cleaning process.

Application Features:
  • Measurement and temperature output with data logging
  • Continuous accurate control of acid dilutions to meet target
  • Trend graphing
  • Functional status indication of monitored parameters Error and Warning light indications
  • Time reduction
  • High-resolution color display 
Additional design features:
  • Data logging documentation for dilution and temperature
  • Multiple product ranges and configurable set points.
  • Sapphire Prism
  • Daylight visible color display
  • NEMA 4X
  • Stainless-steel CNC machined sensing head
  • 4-20mA & RS-232 outputs
  • Configurable alarm points: high/low, setpoint/ deviation, etc. 

Refractometry: A Basic Understanding and Common Uses

Refraction of a light ray
A ray of light being refracted in a plastic block
(Courtesy of Wikipedia)
Refractometry, a combination of physics, materials, and chemistry, is the process which measures the composition of known substances by means of calculating their respective refractive indexes (RI). RIs are evaluated via a refractometer, a device which measures the curve, or refraction, resulting when the wavelength of light moves from the air into and through a tested substance. The unitless number given by the refractometer, usually between 1.3000 and 1.7000, is the RI. The composition of substances is then determined when the RI is compared to a standard curve specific to the material of the substance. There are also four separate types of refractometers: digital, analog, lab, and inline process. Although refractometry can measure a variety of substances, including gases and solids, the most common category of known substances to calculate are liquids; the inline process refractometer is used to quantify the makeup of liquids.

Refraction of a light ray
Refraction of a light ray
(courtesy of Wikipedia)
The ultimate focus of industrial refractometry is to describe what is in a final product or output of a process step. A field which relies directly on the results of refractometry is gemology. Gemological refractometry is crucial for accurately identifying the gemstones being classified, whether the gemstones are opaque, transparent, or translucent.

Other common examples of industrial refractometry uses are measuring the salinity of water to determine drinkability; figuring beverages’ ratios of sugar content versus other sweeteners or water; setting eye-glass prescriptions; understanding the hydrocarbon content of motor fuels; totaling plasma protein in blood samples; and quantifying the concentration of maple syrup. Regarding fuels, refractometry scrutinizes the possible output of energy and conductivity, and for drug-testing purposes, refractometry measures the specific gravity, or the density, of human urine. Regarding food, refractometry has the ability to measure the glucose in fruit during the fermentation process. Because of this, those in food services know when fruit is at peak ripeness and, in turn, also understand the most advantageous point in the fruit’s “lifetime” to put it on the market.

The determination of the substance composition of the product examples listed above all speak to the purpose of quality control and the upholding of standardized guidelines; consumers rely on manufacturers not only to produce these products but also to produce these products consistently and identically every single time. Therefore, the success of commercialism, etc. is dependent on maintaining the standards for the composition of substances, i.e. industrial refractometry.

Equipment manufacturers have developed numerous refractometer configurations tailored to specific use and application. Each has a set of features making it the advantageous choice for its intended application.