This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project addresses a major need in the glass manufacturing industry by developing a wireless sensor for 3?]D imaging of glass furnace walls to identify refractory erosion and molten glass leaks. The furnace walls are comprised of insulation and AZS (Alumina, Zirconium, Silica) refractories which are highly lossy and very dispersive at high temperatures. A conventional approach would inevitably be constrained by its system dynamic range, and thus the most important molten glass?]AZS echo would be virtually invisible regardless of the sophistication of digital processing on the measured results. This project takes a holistic approach from antenna design to imaging algorithm to sensor architecture in order to tackle very demanding requirements of the furnace wall. It aims to accomplish (1) accurate characterization of attenuation and dispersive properties of the furnace walls (2) optimal antenna design to match with minimum inter?]coupling, (3) high resolution imaging algorithm that leverages prior knowledge of wall properties, and (4) hardware architecture with the highest possible dynamic range in such a high temperature environment.

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is that it offers a 3?]D sensor that will enable a maintenance program based upon the real condition of the furnace to realize longer life span of high temperature furnaces and make informed local maintenance without a major interruption in the production. This translates to significant financial savings for the glass manufacturing industry given the multi?]million dollar initial capital investment is required to build a furnace, followed by a multi?]million dollar spending to maintain it. Further, several catastrophic accidents have occurred in the past due to molten glass leaking from the furnaces. These catastrophic accidents resulted in death of several employees, significant financial damage and severe production disruption. Therefore, this project will enable safer manufacturing environment for the glass manufacturing industry since potential areas for molten glass leakages and structural health of furnace walls will be assessed with the 3?]D imaging technology being developed under this project. Lastly, this research will also lead to new design concepts for sensing through dispersive and high loss media in extremely high temperature environment, thus introducing new approaches for wireless sensing technologies in harsh environments.

Project Report

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project addresses a major need in the glass manufacturing industry by developing a wireless sensor for three-dimensional (3-D) imaging of glass furnace walls to identify refractory erosion and molten glass leaks. The furnace walls are comprised of insulation and AZS (Alumina, Zirconium, Silica) refractories which are highly lossy and become electrically conductive at high temperatures. Our objective in Phase I was to demonstrate the feasibility of a wireless sensor system for 3-D structural imaging of high temperature molten glass furnace walls. Our Phase I studies involved experimental work for characterization of furnace walls at high operational temperatures and also measurements and feasibility tests at an operational glass furnace at Libbey Glass facilities. We started the Phase I by developing a high temperature antenna that was used for high temperature characterization of AZS. We also carried out several imaging studies to image defects inside refractories used in glass furnaces. After successfully building our high temperature antenna , we next designed a measurement system to characterize AZS blocks at high temperatures. This was done with a close collaboration with our partner Libbey Glass. Libbey Glass was instrumental in providing necessary materials and assisting with the design of our measurement setup. We also carried out feasibility studies at an operational glass furnace at Libbey Glass facilities. With these measurements, we identified the ideal frequency band for our design and also the electrical loss and dispersive behavior of AZS refractories. Our internal measurements and tests at Libbey facilities conclude that we can see through the furnace walls at their operational furnace temperatures(2300F-2500F). Our in-house experiments demonstrated that we could also image fine features inside the refractory structures at their operational temperatures. These studies established the feasibility of our proposed sensor for structural health monitoring of high temperature furnace walls. The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is that it offers a 3-D sensor that will enable a maintenance program based upon the real condition of the furnace to realize longer life span of high temperature furnaces and make informed local maintenance without a major interruption in the production. This translates to significant financial savings for the glass and other manufacturing industries including steel and aluminium given the multi-million dollar initial capital investment is required to build a furnace, followed by a multi-million dollar spending to maintain it. Further, several catastrophic accidents have occurred in the past due to molten glass leaking from the furnaces. These catastrophic accidents resulted in death of several employees, significant financial damage and severe production disruption. Therefore, this project will enable safer manufacturing environment for the manufacturing environment since potential areas for molten glass leakages and structural health of furnace walls will be assessed with the 3-D imaging technology whose feasibility is shown with this project. Lastly, this research will also lead to new design concepts for sensing through dispersive and high loss media in extremely high temperature environment, thus introducing new approaches for wireless sensing technologies in harsh environments.

Agency
National Science Foundation (NSF)
Institute
Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP)
Type
Standard Grant (Standard)
Application #
1113770
Program Officer
Muralidharan S. Nair
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
2011-07-01
Budget End
2011-12-31
Support Year
Fiscal Year
2011
Total Cost
$149,127
Indirect Cost
Name
Paneratech Inc.
Department
Type
DUNS #
City
Falls Church
State
VA
Country
United States
Zip Code
22043