ICON TECH BLOG #1: Icon Peltier Vacuum Chamber
Icon’s new technology blog, focusing on the industry-changing innovations integrated into our word-leading range of physical property analysers
Technology: icon vacuum chamber
Analyser reliability is the key issue that affects plant engineers today. While the principles of physical property analysis are established and the general techniques proven, the reliability both of the measurement and of the analyser operations has often left much to be desired. In some cases decades have elapsed since many technologies were introduced.
A guiding principle of Icon analyser design has been to address reliability problems. And while some of these improvements are based on technology advancements made in the intervening years, some of our innovations are relatively simple solutions that make a huge difference. One such innovation is the vacuum chamber incorporated into our Cloud Point analyser – a simple but hugely effective improvement that transforms reliability and cost-of-ownership for users.
Used to provide an indicator of the lowest temperature at which typically diesel fuel may be used, cloud point analysis requires a sample to be cooled by a Peltier-based thermoelectric cooler, until sufficient light-scatter is detected from precipitating wax crystals to trigger cloud point detection.
This process has an unwanted side-effect: moisture present in the ambient air inside an analyser air freezes on the cell. When the next cycle is run, the cells heats back up and that ice melts. Eventually that moisture runs down onto the Peltier cooler, causing the cell to corrode and short out. As a consequence, traditional cloud point analysers fail 4-6 times a year.
What Icon has done is the logical solution to the problem. We’ve incorporated the cell into a sealed vacuum chamber to protect it from moisture damage. The technology itself is simple: a specially-designed aluminium chamber containing the measurements is sealed in our factory - so no vacuum pumps are required – and integrated into Cloud Point.
The benefits are immediate and ongoing. The oldest Cloud Point in the field is almost five years old now, is still sealed and hasn’t failed. If engineers can expect on average five failures a year, then that’s saved twenty-five cell changes. When the cost of replacement Peltier cells and downtime is factored in – which can take a few hours, including taking the analyser offline – the saving is worth tens of thousands of dollars over a product lifetime, as well as massively increased reliability and confidence that the process will work without interruption.
The technology is integrated into Freeze Point also, although the issue is less troublesome as the process as doesn’t require Peltier cooler.
As far as increasing the reliability of the analyser, which is our aim from the outset, it’s achieved its goal admirably. We challenge any manufacturer with a cloud point analyser out there to make one more reliable than ours.