Industrial Inline Refractometers for Sucrose, Fructose and Dextrose

The Electron Machine MPR E-Scan is perfectly suited for sugar applications. The refractometer directly measures dissolved solids, which can be easily converted to Brix.

In sugar refineries, the MPR E-Scan can be used to monitor and control Brix measurement from the beginning of the evaporation stages up to the seed point of crystallization.

The suggested adapter for most installations is either a 316S/S in-line type adapter or a 316S/S vacuum pan adapter. If coating may be an issue, a steam or hot water wash nozzle can be provided.

Sanitary-type adapters designed and manufactured to appropriate 3-A Sanitary Standards are also available if needed.

Industrial Refractometers in Action: Pulp & Paper Mill

This video below highlights various applications for inline refractometers in a pulp and paper mill.

The Electron Machine Corporation pioneered the use of refractometers to accurately measure black liquor dissolved solids nearly 50 years ago. Our long history with this application has resulted in numerous design features that specifically address problems associated with this harsh process measurement. Electron Machine refractometers have been accurately measuring green liquor solids in the paper industry for more than 30 years.

For more information visit or call 352-669-3101.

Introduction to Industrial Instrumentation

industrial control
Engineer adjusting a
process controller measuring 
the refractive index of a process.
Instrumentation is the science of automated measurement and control. Applications of this science abound in modern research, industry, and everyday living. From automobile engine control systems to home thermostats to aircraft autopilots to the manufacture of pharmaceutical drugs, automation surrounds us. This chapter explains some of the fundamental principles of industrial instrumentation.

The first step, naturally, is measurement. If we can’t measure something, it is really pointless to try to control it. This “something” usually takes one of the following forms in industry:
  • Fluid pressure
  • Fluid flow rate
  • The temperature of an object
  • Fluid volume stored in a vessel
  • Chemical concentration
  • Machine position, motion, or acceleration
  • Physical dimension(s) of an object
  • Count (inventory) of objects
  • Electrical voltage, current, or resistance
  • Refractive Index
Once we measure the quantity we are interested in, we usually transmit a signal representing this quantity to an indicating or computing device where either human or automated action then takes place. If the controlling action is automated, the computer sends a signal to a final controlling device which then influences the quantity being measured.

This final control device usually takes one of the following forms:
  • Control valve (for throttling the flow rate of a fluid)
  • Electric motor
  • Electric heater
Both the measurement device and the final control device connect to some physical system which we call the process. To show this as a general block diagram:

Process control loop
Process control loop
The common home thermostat is an example of a measurement and control system, with the home’s internal air temperature being the “process” under control. In this example, the thermostat usually serves two functions: sensing and control, while the home’s heater adds heat to the home to increase temperature, and/or the home’s air conditioner extracts heat from the home to decrease temperature. The job of this control system is to maintain air temperature at some comfortable level, with the heater or air conditioner taking action to correct temperature if it strays too far from the desired value (called the setpoint).

Industrial measurement and control systems have their own unique terms and standards. Here are some common instrumentation terms and their definitions:

Process: The physical system we are attempting to control or measure. Examples: water filtration system, molten metal casting system, steam boiler, oil refinery unit, power generation unit.

Process Variable, or PV: The specific quantity we are measuring in a process. Examples: pressure, level, temperature, flow, electrical conductivity, pH, position, speed, vibration.

Setpoint, or SP: The value at which we desire the process variable to be maintained at. In other words, the “target” value for the process variable.

Primary Sensing Element, or PSE: A device directly sensing the process variable and translating that sensed quantity into an analog representation (electrical voltage, current, resistance; mechanical force, motion, etc.). Examples: thermocouple, thermistor, bourdon tube, microphone, potentiometer, electrochemical cell, accelerometer.

Refractive Index Transducer
Example of a transducer.
In this case, a
Refractive Index transducer.
Transducer: A device converting one standardized instrumentation signal into another standardized
instrumentation signal, and/or performing some sort of processing on that signal. Often referred to as a converter and sometimes as a “relay.” Examples: I/P converter (converts 4- 20 mA electric signal into 3-15 PSI pneumatic signal), P/I converter (converts 3-15 PSI pneumatic signal into 4-20 mA electric signal), square-root extractor (calculates the square root of the input signal).
Note: in general science parlance, a “transducer” is any device converting one form of energy into another, such as a microphone or a thermocouple. In industrial instrumentation, however, we generally use “primary sensing element” to describe this concept and reserve the word “transducer” to specifically refer to a conversion device for standardized instrumentation signals.

Transmitter: A device translating the signal produced by a primary sensing element (PSE) into a standardized instrumentation signal such as 3-15 PSI air pressure, 4-20 mA DC electric current, Fieldbus digital signal packet, etc., which may then be conveyed to an indicating device, a controlling device, or both.

Refractive Index Transmitter/Controller
Example of a transmitter and/or
controller. In this case, refractive
index signal conditioning electronics
to modify the transducer signal,
and optionally, provide a control
output to a final control element.
Lower- and Upper-range values, abbreviated LRV and URV, respectively: the values of process oC and its URV would be 500 oC.
measurement deemed to be 0% and 100% of a transmitter’s calibrated range. For example, if a temperature transmitter is calibrated to measure a range of temperature starting at 300 degrees Celsius and ending at 500 degrees Celsius, its LRV would be 300

Zero and Span: alternative descriptions to LRV and URV for the 0% and 100% points of an instrument’s calibrated range. “Zero” refers to the beginning-point of an instrument’s range (equivalent to LRV), while “span” refers to the width of its range (URV − LRV). For example, if a temperature transmitter is calibrated to measure a range of temperature starting at 300 degrees Celsius and ending at 500 degrees Celsius, its zero would be 300 oC and its span would be 200 oC.

Controller: A device receiving a process variable (PV) signal from a primary sensing element (PSE) or transmitter, comparing that signal to the desired value (called the setpoint) for that process variable, and calculating an appropriate output signal value to be sent to a final control element (FCE) such as an electric motor or control valve.

Final Control Element, or FCE: A device receiving the signal output by a controller to directly influence the process. Examples: variable-speed electric motor, control valve, electric heater.

Manipulated Variable, or MV: The quantity in a process we adjust or otherwise manipulate in order to influence the process variable (PV). Also used to describe the output signal generated by a controller; i.e. the signal commanding (“manipulating”) the final control element to influence the process.

Reprinted from Lessons In Industrial Instrumentation by Tony R. Kuphaldt under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License.

Chemical Recovery in Black Liquor Processing for Pulp and Paper Production

Pulp and paper mill
Pulp and paper mill.
For economic and environmental reasons, pulp mills employ chemical recovery processes to reclaim spent cooking chemicals from the pulping process. At kraft and soda pulp mills, spent cooking liquor (referred to as weak black liquor), from the brown stock washers is routed to the chemical recovery area.

The chemical recovery process involves concentrating weak black liquor, combusting organic compounds, reducing inorganic compounds, and reconstituting the cooking liquor.

Residual weak black liquor from the pulping process is a dilute solution (approximately 12 to 15 percent solids) of wood lignin, organic materials, oxidized inorganic compounds (Na2SO4, Na2CO3), and white liquor (Na2S and NaOH). The weak black liquor is first directed through a series of multiple-effect evaporators to increase the solids content to about 50 percent to form “strong black liquor.”

black liquor
Monitoring percent solids in black liquor
is an important part of chemical recovery.
The strong black liquor from the multiple-effect evaporator system is either oxidized in the black liquor oxidation system, or routed directly to a non-direct contact evaporator (also called a concentrator). Oxidation of the black liquor prior to evaporation in a direct contact evaporator reduces emissions of odorous total reduced sulfur compounds. 

The solids content of the black liquor following the final evaporator/ concentrator typically averages 65 to 68 percent. The soda chemical recovery process is similar to the kraft process, except that the soda process does not require black liquor oxidation systems, since it is a non-sulfur process that does not result in total reduced sulfur emissions.

The concentrated black liquor is then sprayed into the recovery furnace, where organic compounds are combusted, and the Na2SO4 is reduced to Na2S. The black liquor burned in the recovery furnace has a high energy content which is recovered as steam for process requirements, such as cooking wood chips, heating and evaporating black liquor, preheating combustion air, and drying the pulp or paper products. 

The process steam from the recovery furnace is often supplemented with fossil fuel-fired and/or wood-fired power boilers. Particulate matter (primarily Na2SO4) exiting the furnace with the hot flue gases is collected in an electrostatic precipitator and added to the black liquor to be fired in the recovery furnace.
Refractometer for black liquor
Refractometer for black liquor measurement.

The process of chemical recovery must be carefully managed. Process variables such as temperature, pressure, flow and level require robust instruments to ensure safety and accuracy. The measurement of black liquor solids content has relied upon the use of industrial inline refractometers for many decades. The Electron Machine Corporation, with it's ruggedly designed MPR E-Scan,  has established itself as the leader in this process. Incorporating a ruggedly designed sensing head with a 2205 S/S prism holder, sapphire prism, LED light source, and very sturdy electronics, the Electron Machine device delivers on it's claim as the "world's most rugged process refractometer".  Since the refractometer is specifically designed for the very harsh environment of a pulp mill, it promises years of low-maintenance and very reliable operation.