Birmingham University spinout Rheality has been awarded funding by Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund to develop its ‘acoustic fingerprint’ technology.
The technology – which aims to reduce waste in Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), food, petrochemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing – measures fluid rheology. This is 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 realise the benefits of a fluid-sensor system developed by Dr Daniel Hefft and Professor Federico Alberini at the university’s School of Chemical Engineering. Using a pin that vibrates as fluid moves around it, an acoustic sensor then converts the vibrations into an electrical signal, and an artificial intelligence machine learning algorithm analyses the signal and coverts it into a rheological value.
The entire system is mounted on the pipe to deliver continuous monitoring of the fluids inside, 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 off-line, requiring production to be stopped. If the fluid has the wrong properties, the entire batch has to be re-worked or scrapped.
Rheality plans to partner with FMCG companies and make bespoke applications for petrochemical and pharmaceutical companies as well as in all sectors where knowledge of fluid characteristics is essential.
The Sustainable Innovation Fund from Innovate UK is funding single and collaborative research and development projects over the next two years. The aim of the funding is to help all sectors of the UK rebuild after the effects of COVID-19.
In a statement, Innovate UK executive chair Ian Campbell said: “In these difficult times we have seen the best of British business innovation. The pandemic is not just a health emergency but one that impacts society and the economy. Rheality Ltd, along with every initiative Innovate UK has supported through this fund, is an important step forward in driving sustainable economic development. Each one is also helping to realise the ambitions of hard-working people.”
The company is exhibiting at the Made Smarter Emerging Tech Show at the Digital Manufacturing Week 2020 on Friday 13 November.