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Nov 2016

ITS Interview: Tom Rodgers

ITS equipment has gone on to be used in a number of unique and fascinating ways, which we aim to share with you in a brand new series of articles; ITS will be shining the spotlight on the talented engineers who utilise our instrumentation for their projects. First up, ITS interview Dr. Tom Rodgers, Lecturer of Chemical Engineering at the University of Manchester. Dr. Rodgers is a leading academic and prominent figure within the world of process tomography; he kindly took time from his busy schedule to show us around his lab and sit down for a chat on his work with batch mixing:Its interview

Which tomography equipment do you use? And how long have you been using it?

I began using Electrical Resistance Tomography in 2004. From there, I’ve been using the P2+ system and have recently purchased the V5R system; which has allowed us to look at much higher speed processes and a much larger range of conductivity.

What research interests do you hold?

My interest is in the scale-up of products, using batch mixing systems, to make them viable for industry. I look at products in the personal care sector such as shampoo, conditioners and deodorants. I’m interested in taking a product like shampoo, which we can successfully produce at a one litre scale, but that doesn’t mean we can replicate that process at a 300, 400 litre scale and produce the same product quality. Hence, I focus on sensing technologies; the major one I use is Electrical Resistance Tomography, which allows me to observe the mixing process and monitor product quality at all scales.

What results has your instrumentation provided?

We’ve used tomography to look at mixing time; it has allowed us to benchmark mixing equipment to determine which is the most efficient to do certain processes. That has enabled us to optimise equipment designs and geometries. Additionally, it has allowed us to validate distribution models which ensure that the entire vessel is covered.

How has tomography systems benefitted your research?

One of the main areas [tomography has benefitted me] is when processing to end point. Traditionally when mixing in industry, a fixed amount of time is allocated to ensure that the mixing process is fully complete. But, by monitoring the process, we can optimise efficiency by stopping the mixing once we’ve achieved our desired results. Thereby, eliminating the time spent mixing unnecessarily.

What would you say are the advantages of using tomography instrumentation compared to other alternatives are?

It’s non-invasive. It sits on the outside of your system, so you know what you’re seeing is a true indication of what’s happening inside the vessel.

Additionally, it provides a complete image of inside the vessel. If we were to replicate our tests with individual probes we may get some local measurements, but with electrical tomography you obtain readings across the whole system with one measurement.

 Have you published literature on your findings?

  • Ren, Z.,  Kowalski, A.  and Rodgers, T.L.(2016). Estimating inline velocity profile of shampoo by electrical resistance tomography. WCIPT8, Iguassu Falls, Brazil, 26-29 September.
  • Rodgers, T. L., Siperstein, F. R., Mann, R., York, T. A., & Kowalski, A. (2011). Comparison of a networks-of-zones fluid mixing model for a baffled stirred vessel with three-dimensional electrical resistance tomographyMeasurement Science and Technology22(10), 104014.
  • Rodgers, T. L., & Kowalski, A. (2010). An electrical resistance tomography method for determining mixing in batch addition with a level change. Chemical Engineering Research and Design, 88(2), 204-212.

If, like Dr. Rodgers, you would like to incorporate tomography into your research, why not contact us now to discuss your application with one of our team; simply send us an email, enquire online, or call +44 (0) 161 832 9297. And keep checking back for the next ITS interview!