Green investor partners with spinout for novel fluid flow characterisation technology

Article by Amanda Jasi

UNIVERSITY of Birmingham spinout Rheality and investment company Clean Engineering have partnered to commercialise a smart, AI-based system expected to optimise fluid production in chemical, fast-moving consumer goods, food, and oil and gas sectors.

The most traditional method of rheological characterisation involves testing the final product, and if the product does not have the desired properties it has to be reworked or even scrapped, resulting in wasted raw materials and using more energy to prepare a new batch. Others can rely on laborious methodologies. Reality’s technology offers a cost-effective device for continuous rheological inline measurement that helps to reduce waste while increasing productivity.

The technology uses a non-invasive, real-time system to measure the rheological properties of liquids flowing through manufacturing pipelines. An easily retrofitted passive probe, located inside the pipe, vibrates according to the fluid flow around it. Sensors convert the vibrations into an electrical signal and machine learning algorithms acquire, analyse, and convert the signal into a continuous feed of actionable information.

Francesco Colacino, CEO of Rheality, further explains that “the self-calibrating machine learning algorithm allows bespoke measurements, which respond to our client’s specific needs”.

“Not only does data analysis get better over time - and processes can be controlled at more granular level, but customers can also choose what to measure wherever they want along their piping systems. Driving efficiencies in, for instance, end-point mixing, will steadily reduce costs while increasing productivity even further with longer use.”

Rheality’s system is fluid agnostic, allowing it to be deployed in production that includes single phase or multiphase environments such as gases, emulsions, oils, slurries, or water, and where fluid flow is luminar, turbulent, or transient. Additionally, it can be used with any pipe size, and in the most demanding working conditions, such as high acidity and pressure. This makes it suitable for critical parts of the manufacturing processes that have historically proved difficult to monitor.

Clean Engineering invests in early-stage engineering companies developing technologies that enhance sustainability.

Richard Bruges, Founder of Clean Engineering, said: “We are highly selective about the technologies we support and only choose those that have a positive impact on the climate crisis, as well as the potential to deliver real value to customers and investors.  This is the second time we have invested in a University of Birmingham spinout and our decision was driven by the chemistry with the founders, the demonstrable appetite from customers and the ability of the system to reduce waste and drive up the productivity of production lines.”

In 2020, prior to spin-out, Rheality’s technology was introduced to industry in a series of webinars, including an IChemE-sponsored webinar in July that year. This resulted in a collaboration with a multinational chemicals company that continues today.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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