Trinity engineers’ infrared detector can map ‘invisible sunshine’
21 April 2015
Mechanical engineers from Trinity College Dublin have developed a first-of-its-kind, three-dimensional infrared (IR) heat detector called the ‘Herschel’. It will function by mapping the presence and distribution of IR energy – which has been dubbed ‘invisible sunshine’ – with unprecedented detail.
The Trinity team has recently signed a licensing agreement with heating specialist Ceramicx Ltd, an Irish SME based in Co Cork, which will see the Herschel built for market to over 60 countries across the globe.
The machine, which resulted from an Enterprise Ireland Innovation Partnership between Trinity and Ceramicx, was named after Sir William Herschel, the 19th-century discoverer of the Infrared spectrum. It will, for the first time, allow users and heat-work practitioners to create a full package of 3D data that makes the all-important science behind heating both visible and predictive.
The equipment comprises a heat flux sensor, which is guided in front of the test emitter by an ABB robot. The sensor co-ordinates can be cubic grid, or spherical. The cubic grid is ideal to sense the heat plux outputs from arrays or larger elements. The spherical coordinates are used to gain an idea of the precise amount of heat emitted by the device under test, and compare it against other emitters.
In addition, the heater can be rotated by 180 degrees and the scan repeated, thus giving a near-360-degree view of the infrared heat flux emitted by the heater front and rear. Knowledge of the front and rear profiles allows determination of the forward efficiency of the infrared heating systems.
This development should have major implications for industry and manufacturing because it will reduce waste, save on costs and allow designers to better test how components are actually performing.
Although IR radiation is invisible to the human eye, it exists as light energy and can be reflected, absorbed and transmitted just like visible light. The problem when engineering complex IR energy systems is that we do not really know where the energy is going and how much is getting there – until now, it seems.
The Herschel machine design is a world-first. Sensors, robotics, thermocouples and programmes such as LabView and Matlab are arranged in such a way as to provide the most practical ways in measuring radiant heat flux distribution from any given heater system. From that base criteria, the system can be tweaked to measure different effects on target bodies such as plastics, for example. It can also measure the effects of different heater and reflector design and the effects of different kinds of IR heat such as short, medium and long wave.
With the Herschel, the Trinity engineers cannot only see the IR heat, but they can also know its intensity and how it spreads into space around it. Whether IR heaters are used in a manufacturing process or in domestic heating applications, they are invariably heating a target. Now we can know how the heat gets there and how efficient the process is.
Associate professor in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering in the School of Engineering at Trinity, Dr Anthony Robinson, led the team that produced the first prototype.
“I think this project really shows how university research can support Irish SMEs,” he said. “Here we have created a scientific instrument, from scratch, that is immediately impacting Ceramicx’ bottom line. It’s already creating profit and jobs and, in its own way, it’s supporting the regrowth of the Irish economy.”
Practical manufacturing applications
Frank Wilson, Ceramicx founder and managing director added: “Our new machine tool now provides a way to measure and map that previously invisible spectrum of energy. It can therefore enable users to precisely plan their manufacturing, save cost and waste, and also gain a greater understanding and measurement of how IR elements and target materials actually perform together. The benefits will be immeasurable.”
Dr Graham McMullin is the technology case transfer manager in Trinity’s Office of Corporate Partnership & Knowledge Exchange. “The level of engagement between Ceramicx and Trinity is an endorsement of Enterprise Ireland’s Innovation Partnership programme, “ he said. “Also, it clearly shows how a university can benefit SME companies in transferring both technical expertise and personnel – Dr Gerard McGranaghan, one of the team members from Trinity’s Fluids and Heat Transfer Research Group, is now the senior development manager at Ceramicx, for example.”
Ceramicx Ltd has been perfecting and honing its IR heat work trade for the past 25 years and the new IR instruments will enjoy instant access to the Ceramicx global sales network. The company has distributors in all continents of the world and currently exports 98 per cent of its IR heating production to over 62 countries.http://www.engineersjournal.ie/2015/04/21/trinity-engineers-infrared-detector-can-map-invisible-sunshine/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/The-Herschel.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/The-Herschel-300x300.jpgMech3D,manufacturing,research,robots,Trinity College Dublin