Showing posts with label refractometer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label refractometer. Show all posts

Technical Sales Representatives: The Often Underutilized Asset

Work with your technical sales rep
Work with your technical sales rep.
It will pay off in ways you haven't imagined.
Process refractometers are sold with the support of sales engineers working for the local distributor or representative. By realizing what these specialists have to contribute, and taking advantage of their knowledge and talent, you will save time and money and experience a better project outcome.

Consider these contributions:

Product Knowledge:
Sales engineers, by the nature of their job, are current on new products, their capabilities and their proper application. Unlike information available on the Web, sales engineers get advanced notice of product obsolescence and replacement. Also, because they are exposed to so many different types of applications and situations, sales engineers are a wealth of tacit knowledge that they readily share with their customers.

As a project engineer or leader, you may be treading on fresh ground with a refractometry requirement for your current assignment. You may not have a full grasp on how to handle a particular challenge presented by a project. If this is the case, call in the local technical sales representative - there can be real benefit in connecting to a source with past exposure to your current requirement.

Of course, sales engineers will be biased. Any solutions proposed are likely to be based upon the products sold by the representative. But the best sales people will share the virtues of their products openly and honestly, and even admit when they don’t have the right product. This is where the discussion, consideration and evaluation of several solutions become part of achieving the best project outcome.

Whatever your stake in an upcoming or ongoing project, it's highly recommended you develop a professional, mutually beneficial relationship with a technical sales expert, a problem solver. Look at a relationship with the local sales engineer as symbiotic. Their success, and your success, go hand-in-hand.

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. 

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 or call 352-669-3101.

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.

Benchtop Refractometer Rugged Enough For Field Use

DSA E-Scan
Dissolved Solids Analyzer
Refractometry is a widely employed analytical technique used to indirectly measure dissolved solids content of subject liquids. The process employs a refractometer, a device or instrument, to determine the refractive index for a test sample. The measurement is employed throughout science and industry to assess a material's composition or purity.

The refractive index of a substance is dependent, in part, upon temperature and the wavelength of light used in the measurement. Common applications include Brix testing for sucrose level, along with others in the beverage, pulp and paper, chemical, flavor, and fragrance industries. Refractometry is used as a quality control measurement, to assure uniformity among product batches.

Manual refractometers have been available for many years and require human observation and interpretation of a scale reading to obtain a refractive index. Automatic, as well as in-line units are available today that provide uniform accuracy and faster sample processing.

The DSA E-Scan, manufactured by Electron Machine, is an automatic, bench-top critical angle refractometer with a digital readout and temperature-controlled sample chamber. Its compact size and rugged design permit operation in the field and in areas with limited space. The unit provides fast and accurate refractive index measurements of sample liquids.