University of Birmingham spinout Rheality Ltd has been awarded funding by Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund to develop its “acoustic fingerprint" technology, which will reduce waste in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), food, petrochemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing.
The company’s innovative technology measures fluid rheology, or the viscosity of fluids and how they flow. This is critically important in production lines for liquids such as ketchup or shampoo that need to have a specific consistency to come out of the bottle.
Rheality was set up to realize the benefits of a fluid-sensor system developed by Dr. Daniel Hefft and Professor Federico Alberini at the university’s School of Chemical Engineering. The technology uses a pin that vibrates as fluid flows around it, an acoustic sensor that converts the vibrations into an electrical signal, and an artificial intelligence machine learning algorithm that analyzes the signal and converts it into a rheological value. The entire system is mounted on the pipe to deliver continuous monitoring of the fluids inside it, and can be calibrated to determine the presence of air bubbles or particulates in liquids, or to indicate the end-stage of a chemical reaction.
This real-time measurement provides continuous monitoring, which has many benefits for manufacturing industries. Current practice is to take samples and test them offline, requiring production to stop while testing takes place. If the fluid has the wrong properties, the entire batch has to be reworked or scrapped.
Rheality intends to partner with FMCG companies and make bespoke applications for petrochemical and pharmaceutical companies as well as in those sectors where knowledge of fluid characteristics is essential.