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Ultrasonic Interface Detector

Background:

Ultrasonic level sensors are commonly used in industry. These sensors generally provide low-cost and accurate level measurements with certain important features and benefits. They are well suited for simple monitoring of liquid and solid levels. However, ultrasonic sensors actually measure the time it takes a signal to travel out and back and thus they generally require a predictable acoustic velocity in order to accurately calculate a distance. A predictable velocity requires known and relatively homogeneous fluid characteristics. There are many important applications involving phase interfaces, liquid-liquid and liquid-solid streams, for which fluid characteristics are not homogeneous and constantly subject to change; ultrasonic sensing technology has had limited success in these situations.

Description of the Invention:

The present invention represents a novel ultrasonic-based device for monitoring of interface position and calculation of liquid layer thickness in tanks and vessels used for separation of liquid-liquid and liquid-solid streams. The invention overcomes many of the complications that have precluded ultrasonic technology from being used in these more challenging applications. The device is self-calibrating, allowing it to make reliable measurements in circumstances such as thick emulsions, varying temperatures and otherwise changing composition that typically frustrate ultrasound approaches. In addition, the design of the device offers ease of maintenance and cleaning and it can operate reliably even in streams where there is a high density of suspended particles. These characteristics are prevalent in many industrial applications, such as oil refining, food processing and oily wastewater treatment.

Potential Advantages:

Separation of multi-phase liquid-liquid and liquid-solid streams such as those involving oil/water mixtures is a common step within process industries. While ultrasonic technology has taken an increasing share of the traditional level sensing market due to its accuracy and relatively low cost, the use of this technique is dependent on reliable knowledge or predictability of the ultrasonic velocity in the fluid medium, and has been limited where phase, temperature and composition changes are prevalent.

There are a number of important applications with these ‘hard-to-measure’ characteristics in industries such as oil refining, petrochemical and food processing and oily wastewater treatment.

Potential Applications:

The primary application for the Ultrasonic Level Detector will be in line, under sink or underground grease interceptors. Both under-sink traps and in-ground interceptors store the captured grease and become less effective as they fill up with grease. Thus they must be periodically pumped out in order to remove captured grease. If the grease level is not measured the pumping frequency can be too short or too long and either case leads to extra cost for the interceptor owner.

Following the successful application of the technology for monitoring interface position and oil-water layer thickness in grease traps, the novel ultrasonic measurement device will be adapted for other markets and ‘hard-to-measure’ applications where accurate measurements of process fluid levels and liquid-liquid interfaces are required. Industries with a need for such devices include petroleum and chemical processing, sewage treatment and food-processing.

Patent Information:

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