Polymerization is a very widely used process based on the build up of long chain molecules (polymers) from shorter ones.
ITS technology is able to measure changes in electrical properties of materials across process volumes, electrical resistance tomography for systems which have a continuous conducting phase (primarily aqueous substrates) and capacitance tomography for non-conducting continuous phase.
Polymerisation reactions frequently involve moving from one phase to another, such as the polymerisation of nylon where water is driven off an aqueous solution to produce the plastic and under these conditions, electrical tomography is able to track reaction progress.
Robust ITS sensors can be designed to operate in aggressive conditions as well as at elevated pressures and temperatures. Under these conditions, sensors are usually fitted into autoclaves. Electrodes and cables can be designed from advanced ceramics and ERT data can be taken in ATEX certified operating conditions.
Through scanning across electrode combinations, reaction progress can be tracked across a range of locations within the process vessel. In addition, features of interest such as foaming can also be seen during reactions, however it should be noted that given the difficulty of installing sensors under such demanding conditions it is difficult to validate such measurements.
In addition to classic polymers, ITS technology has also been used in the to understand mixing and process optimisation of biopolymerisation process.