SBIR Phase I: Measurement and Control of Mass and Velocity Rates in Bulk Solids Distribution Systems

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 1345473
Agency Tracking Number: 1345473
Amount: $150,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2014
Solicitation Year: 2013
Solicitation Topic Code: EI
Solicitation Number: N/A
Small Business Information
2324 Lilac Park, Lexington, KY, 40509-8542
DUNS: 038094228
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: N
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 John Stencel
 (859) 523-8782
Business Contact
 John Stencel
Title: PhD
Phone: (859) 523-8782
Research Institution
This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project demonstrates the feasibility of using a new, non-invasive vibroacoustic method that simultaneously measures solids and air flow rates within highly-branched pneumatic conveyance piping. The method determines characteristic vibrations of the piping that is directly related to solids and gas flow, and acoustic emission, within the piping; it is measured via the attachment of accelerometers onto the outside of the piping. Currently, no inexpensive, non-invasive and wireless system is commercially available that can be used to measure and then control solids and gas flow rates in highly-branched piping typical of industrial settings. In all cases, this situation leads to inefficiencies in materials use and distribution, wasted energy, non-optimized process operation and higher operating costs. The research objectives focus on determining vibroacoustic intensities and associated frequencies between 50-10,000 Hz that will define method sensitivity and repeatability, its potential as a self-standardizing and stand-alone approach, and the technical requirements for creating a commercial process control instrument. Because the vibroacoustic measurements will be accomplished at an industrial site where significant equipment and process noise is typical, the anticipated technical results will create a solid foundation and enhance method credibility for subsequent demonstration. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is in wireless process control instrumentation (PCI) that enhances process efficiencies, and in the scientific understanding of non-invasive measurements of solids and gas flows within highly-branched pneumatic conveyance systems. By controlling solids conveyance in these systems, materials usage efficiencies are increased, and product qualities and process performances are raised. As an example, successfully implementing a vibroacoustic PCI at the industrial site at which the vibroacoustic data are to be acquired could decrease its materials usage by up to 40% with a concomitant cost savings of $640,000/yr. Within US industries mandated to install emission equipment, the cost reductions offered by the vibroacoustic method are $384 million per year, and commercial sales of the PCI could reach $155 million. The cost savings and business created would beneficially impact society through decreased energy consumption for manufacturing, transporting and using solid reagents; decreased electrical generation costs; improved environmental performance; decreased emissions of greenhouse gases; and, decreased consumer costs. Furthermore, increased efficiencies in the control of bulk solids delivery using pneumatic conveyance is needed for commodities and high-value products produced by industry that are either consumed or used by, and impact, every person in the US.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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