Evaluation and characterisation of an ultrasound based in-line rheometric system for industrial fluids
Pulsed Ultrasound Velocimetry combined with Pressure Difference (PUV+PD) measurement is a non-invasive in-line rheometric technique which is used to analyse the complex flow properties of industrial fluids for quality control purposes. Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and Technical Research Institute of Sweden (SP) have developed and patented a new PUV+PD based system, called Flow-Viz™. Despite this advancement, the system and ultrasound sensor technology have not been fully tested and evaluated in a wide range of industrial fluids. Acoustic characterisation tests were carried out at SP, with the aim of understanding the ultrasound beam properties after propagating through industrial stainless steel (316L) pipe walls. For these tests, a high-precision robotic XYZ-scanner and needle hydrophone setup were used. Different ultrasound sensor configurations were mounted to a stainless steel pipe while using different coupling media between the transducer-to-wedge and sensor wedge-to-pipe boundaries. The ultrasound beam propagation after the wall interface was measured by navigating the needle hydrophone within a predefined 2-dimensional spatial grid. The most suitable coupling material was determined from the acoustic characterisation, and then used in the in-line rheological characterisation tests to evaluate the performance of the Flow-VizTM rheometric unit against conventional tube viscometry. The in-line rheological tests were conducted with bentonite, kaolin and Carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) model fluids. The flow loop used consisted of three different pipe test sections; and two concentrations of each fluid were tested in order to ascertain the consistency of the measurements. The in-line rheological tests showed good agreement (±15%) between the two techniques and Flow-VizTM was able to provide important data at very low shear rates. Acoustic characterisation indicated that variations in the beam properties were highly dependent on the acoustic couplants used to mount the sensors to the stainless steel pipes. Furthermore, the in-line results showed the effectiveness of Flow-VizTM as an industrial rheometer. The non-invasive ultrasound sensor technology, was for the first time acoustically characterised through stainless steel. This information will now be used to further optimise the unique technology for advanced industrial applications, e.g. oil drilling fields, complex cement grout and food processing applications.