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Process Analyzers

From Lab to Line: Successful Technology Transfer for Analyzers

| Author / Editor: Paul Kippax* / Dominik Stephan

Modern laboratory laser diffraction systems are highly productive with levels of automation that enable user-independent operation.
Modern laboratory laser diffraction systems are highly productive with levels of automation that enable user-independent operation. (Picture: Malvern)

Adapting analyzer technology for industrial applications—Process analyzers are vital for all kind of industrial plants, delivering fast and accurate data in real time. Yet, analyzer development takes more than just adapting a proven lab process on a bigger scale. Now, laser diffraction particle sizing could help to facilitate the transition from lab to line.

In the process industries, one of the most useful trajectories for an analytical technique is the successfully transition from ‘lab to line’. Once a technique has proved its ability in the laboratory to measure a parameter relating to process or product performance, it becomes an obvious candidate for on-plant measurement. Process analyzers are an integral part of modern operating plants and deliver data far faster than can be achieved even with the most responsive laboratory, while causing much lower running costs. Using the data they generate to automate and enhance plant control delivers substantial economic benefit in the form of, for example, lower energy consumption, less waste, better product quality and high asset utilization figures.

However, the demands of process analysis are significant and cannot be met simply through minor modifications to laboratory instrumentation. Robustness and reliability are crucial but the working environment may be dusty, poorly controlled with respect to temperature, humidity and vibration from neighbouring plant, and/or subject to stringent zoning requirements. Not all analytical techniques are intrinsically suited to online implementation.

The Why and How of Particle Size Analysis

All industries that handle or process particulate materials share the need for particle size information. As a result, particle size analysis is deployed routinely in the development and manufacture of many materials, including pharmaceuticals, foods, cement, inks, paints and coatings, and drilling muds. Particle size influences how a powder flows and packs, how it disperses, reacts and dissolves, and the appearance and consumer appeal of the finished products.

Reliable particle size distribution data are therefore essential from the early stages of research, when the performance of a new product is being developed, through manufacture and into QC, where particle size often forms part of the finished product specification.

Laser diffraction is the particle sizing technique of choice for many applications primarily as it offers:

  • flexibility — suitable for measurement of powders, sprays, emulsions and suspensions
  • a broad measurement range — from sub-micron to several millimetres in size
  • rapid data acquisition — analysis can be complete in seconds
  • automated measurement
  • non-destructive analysis.

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