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A partnership has been formed between Rheality and Clean Engineering to commercialise an AI-based system that will optimise fluid production by reducing power consumption and raw material waste.
Rheality, a University of Birmingham spinout, measures how fluids flow and mix between production lines and its system aims to place process control techniques that have remained unchanged for decades. Manufacturing plants, however, can only test what’s in their pipes by halting production.
This has resulted in inadequate processing or substandard products creating waste as batches may need to be re-worked or scrapped and then more energy is used to prepare a new batch across the food, oil, gas, FMCG and chemicals sectors.
The system uses a retrofitted passive probe into the pipes that vibrate according to the fluid flowing around it. This generates a fluid ‘fingerprint’ and changes these vibrations into an electrical signal which creates an algorithm. This is then analysed and converted into a feed of actionable information
Dr Francesco Colacino, Rheality co-founder and executive director, said: “These trials revealed immediate benefits for our customers, ranging from product quality monitoring to process optimisation.
“Reducing energy consumption is only the first step in this revolution in fluid production efficiency. Our self-calibrating machine learning algorithm allows bespoke measurements, which respond to our client’s specific needs.
“Not only does data analysis get better over time – and processes can be controlled at a more granular level, but customers can also choose what to measure wherever they want along their piping systems. Driving efficiencies in, for instance, end-point mixing, will steadily reduce costs while increasing productivity even further with longer use.”
The system can be used in production that includes single-phase or multiphase environments such as emulsions, oils, gases, slurries, or water, and where the fluid flow is laminar, turbulent or transient. In addition, it is effective in difficult conditions such as high acidity or pressure.
Francesco Colacino added: “We have a streamlined and simplified process for installation that will offer a major benefit to future customers. This was developed and tested in trials that ran through periods of Covid travel restrictions and prolonged shut-downs, proving that the system can be installed quickly and operated remotely.”
Clean Engineering offers support for early-stage engineering businesses that are developing sustainable technologies. Through its programme ‘The Green Staircase’ it provides a structured business development process. The firm also provides Rheality with offices and workshops at The Proving Factory in Coventry.
Richard Bruges, Clean Engineering Director said: “We are highly selective about the technologies we support and only choose those that have a positive impact on the climate crisis, as well as the potential to deliver real value to customers and investors.
“This is the second time we have invested in a University of Birmingham spinout and our decision was driven by the chemistry with the founders, the demonstrable appetite from customers and the ability of the system to reduce waste and drive up the productivity of production lines.”