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HiPERCAM mounted on the GTC

Titan Enterprises reports on how optical flow sensor technology has solved a high-tech problem – monitoring the flow of coolant to the world’s most sensitive astronomical camera.

The world’s largest optical telescope, the 10.4m Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC) on the Canary Island of La Palma, is equipped with a powerful astronomical camera built by the University of Sheffield, UK. This camera, called HiPERCAM, was commissioned on the telescope in 2018 and can take over 1000 pictures every second simultaneously in five optical colours.

The five light sensors used in HiPERCAM are ultra-sensitive charge-coupled devices (CCDs), which require cooling to 183K (-90degC) to minimise noise in the images. This cooling is achieved using very high performance thermo-electric (Peltier) coolers, which in turn require a liquid coolant (a water-glycol mixture at +5degC) to remove the heat they extract. If the flow of coolant fails, the heat input from the Peltier power supplies would destroy the CCDs, which would cost over £500,000 and take years to replace. With so much at stake, the Sheffield team have developed a fail-safe system, where any disruption to the

FT-2 optical flow sensor

flow of coolant past the detector causes the power supply to the Peltiers to switch off automatically, thereby protecting their expensive equipment. Clearly, the most important element in this fail-safe system is an accurate and reliable flow sensor for the coolant.

After attempts to use turbine and ultrasonic flow sensors proved unsuccessful due to metallic film build-up on the propellers and micro bubbles in the coolant the HiPERCAM team turned to Titan Enterprises for advice. After detailed discussions around a type of sensor that could be used that is impervious to the undesirable (but unavoidable) characteristics of the telescope’s cooling fluid – the Titan FT2 optical flow sensor that uses an LED and photodiode to measure flow was proposed.

First light with HiPERCAM – the spiral galaxy NGC 4800, which lies at a distance of 80 million light years.

When the rotor spins in an FT2 optical flow sensor the photodiode can detect the LED with a frequency proportional to the flow rate. When the rotor is static, the photodiode cannot see the LED, indicating no flow. Six FT-2 optical flow sensors have recently been successfully tested in the lab at Sheffield and are now on their way to the GTC in La Palma for final commissioning on HiPERCAM to enable this powerful astronomical camera to finally achieve its full scientific potential.

For further information please visit https://bit.ly/34M7sF0 or contact Titan Enterprises on +44-1935-812790 / sales@flowmeters.co.uk.

Drawing upon over 40 years of flowmeter innovation – Titan Enterprises Ltd are a manufacturer of high-performance solutions including the Atrato ultrasonic flowmeter, Oval Gear flowmeters, low flow Turbine flow meters and a flow instrument range. Titan’s company philosophy of “pushing the envelope by trying to do things a little different and better” has resulted in sales of over 500,000 products into 50 countries worldwide and a repeat purchase percentage of 95%. All flow meters produced by Titan Enterprises are designed and manufactured to ISO9001 and calibrated to an uncertainty of ±0.25%.

Titan Enterprises

With more than 40 years’ experience in flowmeter innovation — Titan Enterprises Ltd is a UK-based manufacturer of high-performance solutions such as the Atrato ultrasonic flowmeter, oval gear flowmeters and the low flow turbine flowmeters and instrument range. Our knowledgable team can offer either an off-the-shelf meter or fully bespoke flow system designed for a particular application, whether it is a low-cost OEM solution or a specialist flowmeter in exotic materials you are looking for.

With more than 40 years’ experience in flowmeter innovation — Titan Enterprises Ltd is a UK-based manufacturer of high-performance solutions such as the Atrato ultrasonic flowmeter, oval gear flowmeters and the low flow turbine flowmeters and instrument range. Our knowledgable team can offer either an off-the-shelf meter or fully bespoke flow system designed for a particular application, whether it is a low-cost OEM solution or a specialist flowmeter in exotic materials you are looking for.

Titan’s company philosophy of ‘pushing the envelope by trying to do things a little different and better’ has resulted in sales of more than 500,000 products in 50 countries worldwide and a repeat purchase percentage of 95 per cent — something that founder Trevor Forster is justly proud of.

Today, Titan supplies innovative flow measurement solutions to a broad range of sectors, including medical, industrial, food and drink, laboratory and pharmaceutical. Its latest innovation — the Atrato flowmeter range — is set to challenge conventional flowmeter thinking the world over. The culmination of eight years’ research and development in collaboration with the Department of Process & Engineering at Cranfield University (UK), it can handle low flows from laminar to turbulent and is largely immune from viscosity effects.

For higher-volume users we can tailor the design of a flowmeter to match your exact application requirements and thus not compromise achievable results with a less-than-ideal sensor. The resultant device would be unique to your application but would still benefit from Titan’s tried-and-tested, modern manufacturing methods to ensure a competitive OEM solution. From an initial concept Titan can offer a complete service from budget costings through prototypes to full production. Often the cost of origination and tooling can be amortised over the life of the product.

All flowmeters produced by Titan are designed and manufactured to ISO9001 and calibrated to an uncertainty of ±0.25 per cent. We produce chemically resistant, high-accuracy digital flowmeters that are not only competitively priced but are engineered to give long-term reliable performance.

However, the value of a flowmeter cannot be judged by price alone. Often in industrial applications the reliability of a product far outweighs the initial purchase price as ‘downtime’ is extremely expensive. At Titan, we endeavour to produce devices that are inherently reliable but are manufactured using the latest and most economical production techniques.

Typical applications overview

  • Flow batching
  • Engine test metering
  • Oil flow measurement and metering
  • Hydraulic fluid measurement and metering
  • High-viscosity fluid measurement and metering
  • OEM equipment
  • Chemical plant measurement and metering
  • Hazardous areas (simple apparatus)
  • Laboratory use
  • Cooling equipment measurement and metering
  • Drink dispensing
  • Semiconductor plant

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