How to Use NIR Probes for Cost-Effective, Reliable Solids, Turbidity and Biomass Measurement
NIR probes are used in a wide range of applications from small-scale laboratory research to mass scale pharma, chemical, food, and beverage production processes to measure turbidity and solids concentration in flowing streams.
And, although anyone outside of those industries might shudder when they hear the word probe, NIR probes are actually quite useful and extremely cost effective.
But what exactly are they used for in each industry? And how can you use an NIR probe in your industry? Here are a few pointers.
Clean-In-Place (CIP) Systems
NIR absorbance probes and NIR scattered light turbidity probes are ideally suited for closed systems that are CIP’ed as one of the big problems facing food, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries is the measurement of cleaning efficiency. The tendency is to “overdo” the cleaning, running cleaning solutions through the plant for far longer than is necessary. Better safe than sorry, right?
Bear in mind that in order to comply with certain government codes, clean-in-place systems have to be implemented to ensure contamination-free manufacturing of certain commodities.
So how can you optimize a cleaning method so it takes only the time it needs and no more and is compliant with government regulations? One way is to continually take samples from the line so you can check to see how the cleaning is progressing. As the line is cleaned, so the solids or turbidity levels will fall. Once they reach a minimum the cleaning is all done.
But in a closed system, you often can’t just open a valve to take a sample for measurement. Cleaning solutions can be hazardous to health and furthermore, you also need to avoid the possibility of any kind of contamination getting into the system and making things worse.
Enter NIR process probes.
These nifty little devices sit inside the piping of a closed system, continuously monitoring the solids concentration or turbidity of the flowing stream. As a cleaning cycle runs, the signals from these devices will trend downwards, allowing operations to determine when the correct level of cleanliness is reached and switch the plant back to making money again.
NIR process probes can help your industry adhere to regulations and avoid costly manufacturing interruptions. NIR absorbance or turbidity probes can replace manual sampling, removing the risk of contamination or introducing undesirable elements into your closed system piping.
Filter Monitoring Systems
In line filters are used to clarify liquids in many processes. For instance, brewers use haze filters, pharmaceutical processes use filters to clarify medicinal solutions, refiners use filters to remove grit from gasoline, and there are many, many more.
Filters have a finite capacity to remove particulate from a flowing steam. Once they become “loaded” with particulate, “break-through” occurs and the filtered product becomes contaminated – almost as if the filter wasn’t in place at all! By the time you discover that you need to change or regenerate your filter, your product is already spoiled.
NIR probes inline downstream of the filter will provide real time feedback about the clarity of the stream and ensure you know your filter system is working properly and efficiently. Their signals can be used to indicate when filters should be changed, taking the guesswork out of filter maintenance while saving you money as each and every filter can be used to its capacity – no more throwing away of partially used filters! Probe outputs can also be used to automate filter bed regeneration – another efficiency improvement.
In both the food and pharmaceutical industries, processes that grow biomass to feed into manufacturing lines downstream need to be carefully monitored. Biomass needs careful nurturing with the correct amount of nutrients in liquid and gas feeds. As the biomass in a process increases, the nutrient quantities needed also increase. What better way to control this than by directly measuring the biomass concentration with an NIR biomass probe?
These probes include an optical head with a built-in amplifier and can monitor cell growth in a wide range of different biomass types. These probes are specifically useful in fermentation process monitoring as they read cell mass real time as compared to traditional off-line sample testing techniques.
NIR biomass probes are cost effective when compared to most traditional offline methods that require more equipment, and effort, and time. And NIR biomass probes aren’t restricted to mass manufacturing processes. Scientists are consistently using NIR biomass probes in research.
For example, the USDA Agricultural Research Service used NIR analysis for their study of switchgrasses. Their results are now be used by other scientists in their research of various warm-season perennial grasses. NIR biomass probes can be calibrated to monitor cell growth processes in any needed field.
NIR technology is essential in helping companies and researchers in the food, pharmaceutical, and beverage industries meet customer and government expectations. Ensuring accurate measurement in a contamination-free process benefits everyone from the top down when it comes to products everyone uses and consumes. If you want to know more about NIR technology, contact us to explore how NIR technology can improve your manufacturing and testing processes.