Pickering Interfaces announces Partner Program with System Integrators to collaboratively optimise customer test solutions

Pickering Interfaces has launched its Pickering Partner Program, which is designed to ensure that customers get the support they need from the best available systems integrator in their region for their application or requirements.

“Customers are working on more complex and diverse systems, and they may need a more complete product or service offering than we can provide,” explains Joe Woodford, Pickering Interfaces’ International Sales and Partner Program Manager. “The Pickering Partner Program will enable end customers in manufacturing sectors such as defence, aerospace, automotive and semiconductor, to capitalise on Pickering’s technology and utilise the systems and technology expertise of a systems integrator which is most closely matched to their application or requirement.”

Customers are encouraged to visit, where they can apply a number of filters – region, technology, market, product, software – which will lead them to the most appropriate Pickering Partner. The page currently contains links to approaching 30 systems integrators who have signed up for the program in the USA, Asia and Europe. Pickering has thoroughly evaluated all partners – many of them have been Pickering customers for many years. By signing up for the Pickering Partner Program, they are formalising an existing relationship.

Systems integrator Partners will benefit from a closer contractual agreement with Pickering. They will have access to a number of resources and tools to help them deliver the best overall solution for their customers. Adds Woodford: “Our philosophy is based on three pillars: Design, Deploy, Sustain. We want our Partners to be closely involved in the design discussions with customers and help in the deployment stage as they will ultimately deliver turnkey systems based on our technology. Our main goal is to improve the customer experience.” More details about the program can be found at

New year, new knowledge

Measurement technology expert, Hottinger Bruel & Kjaer UK has launched a full calendar of its free online training sessions, hosted by its technical experts.

The company has added several dates providing an introduction to the different functions of it’s 2245 sound level meter: Environmental Measurements with 2245 and Noise at Work Measurements with 2245 and Product Noise.

Also new for 2021 is 2250 and ISO 16283 (Building Acoustics) where attendees can learn how to carry out sound and impact insulation measurements that meet ISO 16283 standards.

If you are new to using the 2250 or 2270 or looking for a refresher, there are also basic and advanced sessions to get you up and running with your Sound Level Meter, plus more general measurement topics, such as 2250 Matron 4 and Handheld Sound Intensity.

Tailored both for new and existing users or those hoping to get an introduction to working with multi channel data, the BK Connect webinar provides a thorough introduction to the software including acquisition, analysis and reporting

HBK will also be adding multi-day courses to its 2021 training calendar soon. More information and registration details are available on the company’s website:

National Centre for Additive Manufacturing to upgrade ceramic AM capability

The National Centre for Additive Manufacturing, based at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry, is to take delivery of a new machine which will result in a big expansion of its ceramic 3D printing capabilities.

The CeraMet 1 ceramic stereolithography machine from polymer 3D printing specialists Photocentric, will allow additive manufacturing experts at the MTC to print very large ceramic parts such as full size casting cores.

Peterborough-based Photocentric has been at the cutting edge of photopolymer additive manufacturing development for more than 18 years. In 2014 the company developed the first 3D-printer based on LCD screens and visible light technology. These have proved successful in the 3D printing of plastics, enabling significantly greater productivity with larger format printers, delivering lower final part costs.

The new CeraMet 1 stereolithography machine currently being installed at the MTC benefits from numerous innovations and is the culmination of Photocentric’s research into 3D printing ceramics. It enables the creation of ceramic objects at a much larger scale and with greater productivity than was possible before.  It uses a patent-applied-for dispensing and release system known as “blow peel”. This system allows a wide range of ceramic materials to be printed successfully.

Photocentric, as both printer and resin manufacturers, are installing their machine at the MTC and supplying ceramic resins. The range of ceramic resins that can be used in the machine is vast.

Will Rowlands, ceramic AM technology lead at NCAM, said, “The introduction of the CeraMet 1 at the MTC goes a long way to enhancing the MTC’s capability to support the UK ceramic manufacturing market. This is an exciting new avenue for the cost-effective manufacture of high quality, complex ceramic components, opening up this technology to a huge range of applications.”

Paul Holt, managing director at Photocentric Ltd said, “We are very excited to launch CeraMet 1 as our first large format ceramic 3D-printer. We are thrilled by the opportunity of custom mass manufacturing ceramic parts that this new machine will unleash. We believe that our partnership with the MTC will open up new horizons for the adoption of ceramics additive manufacturing in large scale across industries.”

The National Centre for Additive Manufacturing at the MTC brings together one of the most comprehensive combinations of additive manufacturing equipment and capability in the UK. It is also home to the European Space Agency’s Additive Manufacturing Benchmarking Centre.

The MTC was founded by the University of Birmingham, Loughborough University, the University of Nottingham and TWI Ltd. The MTC’s industrial members include some of the UK’s major global manufacturers.

The MTC aims to provide a competitive environment to bridge the gap between university-based research and the development of innovative manufacturing solutions, in line with the Government manufacturing strategy. The MTC is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, supported by Innovate UK.

The MTC hosts the National Centre for AM (NCAM), which accelerates the adoption of AM by developing the technology and systems required to industrialise AM.

What will the SME manufacturing landscape look like post COVID-19?

Chris Evans, marketing and operations group manager at Mitsubishi Electric UK, looks at the effect the pandemic could have on the future adoption of automation in manufacturing within SMEs.

A catalyst for digital transformation

It is poignant to recall that at the time the world went into meltdown, industry in general was still riding the Industry 4.0 wave and looking forward to following a collective journey towards digitalisation and smart manufacturing. The global pandemic certainly put the brakes on that but what will happen when we emerge on the other side of this crisis?

What this experience has shown us and is continuing to show us, is that businesses who had already adopted automation, or by their very nature are digital operations, such as the online retailers, have adapted more quickly and in some cases have enjoyed a boom time. In contrast, many traditional manufacturing companies are struggling to return to anything like pre COVID-19 production levels because of many factors, not least of which is the requirement to observe social distancing requirements for staff on their production lines and associated processes.

Could it be then, that rather than be its nemesis, COVID-19 may well prove the catalyst that stimulates and drives manufacturing to forge ahead with digital transformation post pandemic?

Digitalisation for all

Perhaps in the past, talk of smart manufacturing and the digitalisation of the manufacturing process could have been interpreted by some as only applying to the larger manufacturers and enterprises. To accept that argument would be to deny SMEs the chance to enjoy the benefits of adopting automation and a level of ‘smart’ that is appropriate for their business.

It is important to consider the manufacturing process as a whole and analyse areas where the adoption of automation would have the greatest impact. Labour intensive areas have always been a target for automation and with the availability of today’s technologies, the options are wide and scalable. As an example, the adoption of robotic solutions in assembly, product sorting or machine tending processes offer many advantages over the manual alternative.

Robot solutions now include the option of collaborative operation should the robot have to interact directly with the operator. Depending on the application, a co-operative solution where the operator is allowed to enter into the robot’s working area safely, which either slows down or halts the robot operation until safe to resume, could well be the best solution

A wise investment

For an SME to invest in automation, there needs to be a relatively short ROI, which is even more relevant in these times of living with a pandemic when every investment comes under the greatest scrutiny. This can only be realised by considering what the SME is trying to achieve. Once that clear vision is established a scheduled plan can be developed, focussing initially on quick wins.

Every manufacturing operation has pinch points or bottle necks and often these offer those quick win opportunities, where a reasonable level of investment can return significant benefits.

This approach has two major benefits; an immediate effect on the efficiency of the manufacturing process and additionally, it helps to convince the people holding budgets that investing in automation is the right thing to do.

Applying automation solutions can be achieved with a staged approach as long as the end goal is understood by all parties. The scale of the implementation can also be matched to the size of the enterprise and available budget.

Changing data into information

Of course, to really make the operation ‘smart’ you must collect, collate, aggregate and analyse the information about the process from what is actually going on in the manufacturing plant.

This feels like another giant leap for many SMEs but again with the right approach this can be targeted and scaled to suit varying business requirements. Automation technology today has a host of built in diagnostic and predictive maintenance functions, all waiting to be collected and analysed.

What is done with that data can be as simple as visualising it on a local operator panel with associated alarms, to passing it through a data collection layer and linking it to business systems at the top of the enterprise and all points in between.

With the advent of intelligent process controllers and edge computing technology, it is possible to perform detailed analysis and even apply Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the Operational Technology (OT) layer to minimise the data traffic that is sent to the Information Technology (IT) end of the business. Edge technology also provides the ability to react in real time to process anomalies and changes at plant level.

The benefits of following this path are clear, facilitated by the evolving asset care regimes of preventative, predictive through to prescriptive maintenance, operational efficiencies can be improved, production throughput can be increased and downtime reduced.

Facing the challenges ahead

Now more than ever, manufacturers need to embrace the digitalisation process, which is challenging when many organisations have operated in ‘survival mode’ through this crisis with a subsequent lack of money for investment. Therefore the scale of any short term investment in the manufacturing process may be reduced, which makes it even more important to discuss and plan an achievable result, balancing what is available to invest against the best return on that investment. A well thought through implementation plan will illustrate that following a staged approach provides an entry level that can be achieved with the minimum of investment and provide tangible results.

It has been proven that an automated plant that relies less on manual labour in the manufacturing process is more resilient to this type of crisis than a labour intensive one. An automated plant also allows the manual labour to be deployed elsewhere in the organisation on less mundane tasks and provides opportunities to upskill the workforce.

Future proofing the operation

Moving forward, all businesses, whether SMEs or larger organisations will benefit from adopting or further adopting automation and smart manufacturing. This journey can start with small steps and evolve over time against an agreed plan but it is extremely likely that manufacturers who run smart operations and who make themselves more resilient will prosper as we work our way out of this pandemic.

At Mitsubishi Electric UK we have found that early engagement with the manufacturer is vital to fully understand their goals, business requirements and potential obstacles and then to develop a staged plan to map out the road to what smart manufacturing looks like for them.

It is also important to consider all the elements necessary to deliver a complete solution, including cyber security. We are fortunate at Mitsubishi Electric that in addition to our own automation solutions we have complimentary technologies from our e-F@ctory Alliance Partners which collectively can meet all of these requirements.

It would be easy just to relate everything to surviving the pandemic but it should also be viewed as a catalyst to implement change. Manufacturers who follow the journey towards digitalisation and smart manufacturing, scaled to suit their enterprise, will create a more agile and flexible manufacturing environment which will be ready to react to changing customer wishes and demands and will fundamentally enable them to stay ahead of their competitors.

ABB supports India’s Koppal district to ease water shortages

In a unique project led by L&T Construction Water & Effluent Treatment IC for the Government of Kartanaka, ABB’s end-to-end solutions will help the local water authority to track, measure and optimise water use in this drought-stricken region of southwest India, as well as pump and distribute clean treated river water to village homes. The solution includes 635 digital flowmeters and technologies to improve control at pumping stations and reservoirs.

Karnataka region, India

With a population of around one million people, the Koppal district is regularly challenged by water shortages. Until now, responses have ranged from preserving ancient wells to following age-old water conservation practices, but thanks to digital technologies, the Kushtagi and Yelburga villages will soon benefit from  ABB’s digital water management solutions as part of a multi-village clean drinking water scheme.

Koppal needed solutions that could effectively monitor water flow and manage leaks to reduce non-revenue water and achieve overall productivity improvement in a widely dispersed water distribution network set-up. L&T Construction Water & Effluent Treatment IC, the lead contractor for the project, chose ABB Ability  Symphony Plus SCADA and ABB’s AquaMaster 4 flowmeters for the project, sanctioned by the Rural Water Supply & Sanitation Department, Koppal, Karnataka.

ABB’s engagement spans the end-to-end automation and instrumentation of the project, from the pumping station at the river to the treatment of clean drinking water. The route comprises 620 overhead tanks and 16 reservoirs. The project involves putting in place a network of RTUs (remote terminal units) for remote locations and pumping stations and ABB Ability Symphony Plus SCADA to supervise and control the operation. ABB AbilityTM Symphony Plus SCADA is designed to maximise reliability and availability of water plants and networks through  integrated information management, integration of equipment, and process optimisation based on the entire water network data for safer and enhanced operations.

ABB AquaMaster 4 in-situ

The SCADA solutions help monitor and analyse daily flow consumption patterns thereby identifying possible leaks and sending the information in real-time to the central control room. This helps to avert water loss because it means that leaks are identified and can be repaired swiftly.

ABB’s AquaMaster 4 electromagnetic flowmeters, running on battery power, will offer reliability even in low flow conditions, in areas where most mechanical flowmeters would fail. They offer measurement accuracy down to flow velocities lower than 0.1m/s where most meters struggle to even detect flow.  As the vast majority of leaks are small but continuous, the ability of AquaMaster to detect small variations in flow is crucial in combating the water shortage challenge in the Koppal district.

The AquaMaster 4 is a first of its kind digital flowmeter that is easy to install and use. Its unique Velox Mobile App interface saves time and resources by eliminating the requirement for special cables, tools or the input of a trained engineer to set up the meter or read data on it. The device is largely self-sufficient in operation, with automatic self-health check and auto calibration features. ABB Velox App uses near-field communication (NFC), protected by strong encryption to avoid eavesdropping or tampering.

With inbuilt tamper-proof datalogging, self-diagnostics, and a smart integrated GPRS communication module, AquaMaster 4 facilitates automated meter reading (AMR) and links to an automatic billing system, providing transparency in consumption data, with user-specific tags and access control. GIS (geographical information systems) enable preventive maintenance and permit easy navigation to the site of a potential leak, thanks to Google Maps GPS assistance. The meters can be verified by the ABB Ability Verification™ for measurement devices solution, which extends the lifecycle of the product, validates  accuracy, and provides the customer with a health-check report in accordance with the ISO9001 standard. This makes AquaMaster 4 a perfect choice for Advance Metering Infrastructure (AMI) projects.

ABB Symphony Plus

G Srinivas Rao, Head of ABB Measurement & Analytics in India, said: “As India moves swiftly towards smart and sustainable villages, towns and cities, one of the key challenges is water management. This project shows how ABB’s digital water management solutions can be deployed not only in cities but also to provide clean, drinking water in the villages that are crucial to our agrarian economy. We are proud partners in this project in the state where ABB India is headquartered, and in the district which contributes so significantly to our agricultural output.”

ABB flowmeters are also in operation in cities across India, including Delhi, Bangalore, Surat, Ranchi, Kolkata, Udaipur, Chennai, and in semi urban and rural areas like Gadag in Karnataka and Jawai in Rajasthan. As Koppal looks at the next level of growth in industries and agriculture, this major water management project will ensure the availability of infrastructure facilities for the district to forge ahead.

What is fresh air and is it really fresh?

Covid-19 is a highly contagious disease and to mitigate the spread of the virus especially indoors, the common refrain is to make sure the space is well ventilated with fresh air. But what exactly is fresh air? Fresh air is typically defined as cool, unpolluted air in natural surroundings. But as there is no agreed parametric definition of what fresh air is, how can you determine if the air indoors is really fresh?

Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) has not formally confirmed that COVID-19 is spread by airborne transmission, it is probably only a matter of time as other similar viruses such as norovirus and the flu are acknowledged to be spread in this way. In the case of COVID-19, it is believed that ventilation plays an important part in reducing transmission by dilution and removal of infected particles and droplets.

Ventilation is the intentional introduction of fresh air into a space while the stale air is removed. It is done to maintain the quality of air in that space. According to The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASGRAE), acceptable interior air quality is where there are no known harmful contaminants in harmful concentrations. But what constitutes harmful contaminants in harmful concentrations is left to individual States to define, such as the Title 14 California code of regulations, which stipulates for example maximum permissible levels of CO2 in a building.

In the UK, there are guidelines such as the Building Regulations 2010 for manufacturers, architects and engineers involved with building design and services to assist in the process of reducing poor air quality and ensuring there is enough fresh air ventilation. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 is the primary piece of legislation covering occupational health and safety. It states that employers have a duty of care to ensure there is a safe and healthy work environment. New and revised workplace exposure limits (WELs) came into force from January 2020 under the auspices of the Health and Safety Executive EH40/2005 containing an updated list of maximum exposure limits and occupational exposure standards for specific gases as required by the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations.

However, there are currently no regulations on what constitutes ‘good quality’ indoor air. Although there have been calls on the Government to make measuring and monitoring of indoor air quality a legal requirement in commercial buildings and schools especially in urban locations, legislation has not yet been forthcoming.

The established benchmark test for indoor air quality is to assess CO2 levels. Ignoring particulate matter, VOCs and other contaminants, it is generally understood that indoor CO2 levels are a good proxy for the amount of pollutant dilution in densely occupied spaces and can therefore be used as a good indicator for fresh air.

So how do CO2 levels equate to fresh air? The amount of carbon dioxide in a building is usually related to how much fresh air is being brought into the building. In general, the higher the concentration of carbon dioxide in the building in comparison to outdoors, the lower the amount of fresh air exchange. The background level of CO2 outdoors is generally considered to be in the range of 350-450 parts per million (ppm). CO2 is a by-product of normal human activity and is removed from the body via the lungs in the exhaled air. Unless an indoor space is adequately ventilated, CO2 will naturally build up over time. CO2 levels in a well managed indoor space are generally 350- 1,000ppm. Above 1,000ppm and most people will begin to complain about the stuffy atmosphere or poor air quality. High levels of CO2 indoors are also associated with headaches, sleepiness, poor concentration, and loss of attention and in extremely high concentrations, CO2 is harmful to life due to oxygen deprivation.

CO2 sensors along with temperature and humidity sensing are often used as part of automatic ventilation control systems. But what if the building or school does not have such a sophisticated environmental control setup?

Ample natural ventilation is considered to be the best method to prevent the Sars-CoV-2 virus from spreading indoors. The amount of fresh air that needs to be supplied is a matter of conjecture, but good practice is to ensure ventilation is capable of keeping CO2 levels below 1,000 ppm or even lower. Assuming monitoring of CO2 levels is a good proxy for fresh air, CO2 sensors can be used to check if there is enough ventilation in the building and if not, to trigger a response. At its simplest, this can be as simple as setting a CO2 alarm level to prompt opening a window in the room.

Most high-performance ambient level CO2 sensors use a measurement method called Nondispersive Infrared (NDIR), where the CO2 level is determined using the Beer-Lambert law. Beer-Lambert’s law states that the loss of light intensity when it propagates in a medium is directly proportional to intensity and path length. CO2 molecules absorb infrared radiation at a wavelength of around 4.25 microns.

CO2 monitoring systems often need to be installed in locations where access to mains power is limited, or its provision is costly. The ability to be able to power the CO2 sensor for long periods of time from a battery or from energy generated using harvesting techniques is highly desirable. To reduce maintenance costs, users want the ability for the CO2 sensor to operate autonomously for many years without user intervention.

Conventional CO2 sensors use an incandescent light source. However, these mid-IR light sources consume lots of power during a lengthy warm-up phase and during operation, making them unattractive especially for retrospective installations, where there is often a lack of an easily accessible power source.

All GSS sensors use an in-house designed ultra-efficient LED light source. LEDs are much more efficient in converting electrical power into light than conventional light sources and they do not need the long warm-up times suffered by incandescent light sources. The length of time the light source is active is a significant contributor to how much power is consumed by the sensor. In a power-sensitive application, a GSS CO2 sensor is typically pulsed on and off to minimise overall power consumption.

Depending on installation requirements, a CO2 monitor can range from a simple display on the wall with a programmable alarm to sophisticated systems with wireless interfaces sending data up to the cloud.

The latest GSS sensors such as the CozIR-Blink are designed to operate in battery-powered units so they can be easily installed and deployed. They are designed to be power cycled, where the whole device is powered down after a CO2 reading has been made. A typical installation might be preprogrammed to take one reading every few minutes. Depending on the required CO2 measurement accuracy, if the sensor is configured to take a reading every minute, the power consumed by the CozIR-Blink can be as low as 26uW per reading. Whilst obviously dependent on what other electronics are in the sensor, CO2 monitors using the CozIR-Blink are often designed to last for two or more years on a single battery charge.

All GSS sensors can also be pre-programmed to run an automated background ‘reference-setting’ routine where CO2 levels are monitored over time. The reference value is the lowest concentration to which the sensor is exposed over an extended period such as a week and is typically considered to be the fresh air minimum ambient level. This scheme allows users to set an alarm threshold that is relative to a fresh air reference value, which takes account of changing outdoor ambient CO2 levels. The sensor programable alarm can easily be used to drive a “traffic light alert” indicating it is time to open the window.

Ultra-low-power sensors such as the CozIR-Blink open-up new installation possibilities in a wide range of offices, workplaces and schools. Used correctly, this type of CO2 sensor can be employed as a simple and cost-effective tool to help avoid catching the virus indoors.

Find out more:

Battery of tests: Scientists figure out how to track what happens inside batteries

The future of mobility is electric cars, HGVs and aeroplanes. But there is no way a single battery design can power that future. Even your mobile phone and laptop batteries have different requirements and different designs. The batteries we will need over the next few decades will have to be tailored to their specific uses.

This DOE-created illustration shows ions in a fully charged lithium-ion battery. A team of researchers using the APS has discovered a new method to precisely measure the movement of these ions through a battery. Credit: US Department of Energy

And that means understanding exactly what happens, as precisely as possible, inside each type of battery. Every battery works on the same principle: ions, which are atoms or molecules with an electrical charge, carry a current from the anode to the cathode through material called the electrolyte, and then back again. But their precise movement through that material, whether liquid or solid, has puzzled scientists for decades. Knowing exactly how different types of ions move through different types of electrolytes will help researchers figure out how to affect that movement, to create batteries that charge and discharge in ways most befitting their specific uses.

In a breakthrough discovery, a team of scientists has demonstrated a combination of techniques that allows for the precise measurement of ions moving through a battery. Using the Advanced Photon Source (APS), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory, these researchers have not only peered inside a battery as it operates, measuring the reactions in real time, but have opened the door to similar experiments with different types of batteries.

The researchers collaborated on this result with the Joint Centre for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), a DOE Energy Innovation Hub led by Argonne. The team’s paper, which details velocities of lithium ions moving through a polymer electrolyte, was published in Energy and Environmental Science.

“This is a combination of different experimental methods to measure velocity and concentration, and then compare them both to theory,” said Hans-Georg Steinrück, professor at Paderborn University in Germany and the first author on the paper. “We showed this is possible, and now we will perform it on other systems that are different in nature.”

Those methods, performed at beamline 8-ID-I at the APS, included using ultra-bright X-rays to measure the velocity of the ions moving through the battery, and to simultaneously measure the concentration of ions within the electrolyte, while a model battery discharged. The research team then compared their results with mathematical models. Their result is an extremely accurate figure representing the current carried by ions — what is called the transport number.

The transport number is essentially the amount of current carried by positively charged ions in relation to the overall electric current, and the team’s calculations put that number at approximately 0.2. This conclusion differs from those derived by other methods, researchers said, due to the sensitivity of this new way of measuring ion movement.

The true value transport number has been the subject of some debate among scientists for years, according to Michael Toney, professor at the University of Colorado Boulder and an author on the paper. Toney and Steinrück were both staff scientists at the DOE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory when this research was conducted.

“The traditional way of measuring the transport number is to analyse the current,” Toney said. “But it was unknown how much of that current is due to lithium ions and how much is due to other things you don’t want in your analysis. The principle is easy, but we had to measure accurately. This was certainly a proof of concept.”

For this experiment the research team used a solid polymer electrolyte, instead of the liquid ones in wide use for lithium ion batteries. As Toney notes, polymers are safer, since they avoid the flammability issues of some liquid electrolytes.

Argonne’s Venkat Srinivasan, deputy director of JCESR and an author on the paper, has extensive experience modelling the reactions inside batteries, but this is the first time he’s been able to compare those models to real-time data on the movement of ions through an electrolyte.

“For years we wrote papers about what happens inside a battery, since we couldn’t see the things inside,” he said. “I always joked that whatever I said must be true, since we couldn’t confirm it. So for decades we have been looking for information like this, and it challenges people like me who have been making the predictions.”

In the past, Srinivasan said, the best way to research the inner workings of batteries was to send a current through them and then analyse what happened afterward. The ability to trace the ions moving in real time, he said, offers scientists a chance to change that movement to suit their battery design needs.

“We had to connect the dots before, and now we can directly detect the ions,” he said. “There is no ambiguity.”

Eric Dufresne, physicist with Argonne’s X-ray Science Division, was one of the APS scientists who worked on this project. An author on the paper, Dufresne said the experiment made use of the coherence available at the APS, allowing the research team to capture the effect they were looking for down to velocities of only nanometers per second.

“This is a very thorough and complex study,” he said. “It’s a nice example of combining X-ray techniques in a novel way, and a good step toward developing future applications.”

Dufresne and his colleagues also noted that these experiments will only improve once the APS undergoes an in-progress upgrade of its electron storage ring, which will increase the brightness of the X-rays it produces by up to 500 times.

“The APS Upgrade will allow us to push these dynamic studies to better than microseconds,” Dufresne said. “We will be able to focus the beam for smaller measurements and get through thicker materials. The upgrade will give us unique capabilities, and we will be able to do more experiments of this type.”

That’s a prospect that excites the research team. Steinrück said the next step is to analyse more complex polymers and other materials, and eventually into liquid electrolytes. Toney said he would like to examine ions from other types of material, like calcium and zinc.

Examining a diversity of materials, Srinivasan said, would be important for the eventual goal: batteries that are precisely designed for their individual uses.

“If we want to create high-energy, fast, safe, long-lasting batteries, we need to know more about ion motion,” he said. “We need to understand more about what happens inside a battery, and use that knowledge to design new materials from the bottom up.”

New testing system could become the IoT of photovoltaics

A new system for measuring solar performance over the long term in scalable photovoltaic systems, developed by Arizona State University researchers, represents a breakthrough in the cost and longevity of interconnected power delivery.

When solar cells are developed, they are “current-voltage” tested in the lab before they are deployed in panels and systems outdoors. Once installed outdoors, they aren’t usually tested again unless the system undergoes major issues. The new test system, Suns-Voc, measures the system’s voltage as a function of light intensity in the outdoor setting, enabling real-time measurements of performance and detailed diagnostics.

“Inside the lab, however, everything is controlled,” explained Alexander Killam, an ASU electrical engineering doctoral student and graduate research associate. “Our research has developed a way to use Suns-Voc to measure solar panels’ degradation once they are outdoors in the real world and affected by weather, temperature and humidity,” he said.

Current photovoltaic modules are rated to last 25 years at 80 percent efficiency. The goal is to expand that time frame to 50 years or longer.

“This system of monitoring will give photovoltaic manufacturers and big utility installations the kind of data necessary to adjust designs to increase efficiency and lifespans,” said Killam, the lead author of “Monitoring of Photovoltaic System Performance Using Outdoor Suns-Voc,” for Joule.

For example, most techniques used to measure outdoor solar efficiency require you to disconnect from the power delivery mechanism. The new approach can automatically measure daily during sunrise and sunset without interfering with power delivery.

“When we were developing photovoltaics 20 years ago, panels were expensive,” said Stuart Bowden, an associate research professor who heads the silicon section of ASU’s Solar Power Laboratory. “Now they are cheap enough that we don’t have to worry about the cost of the panels. We are more interested in how they maintain their performance in different environments.

“A banker in Miami underwriting a photovoltaic system wants to know in dollars and cents how the system will perform in Miami and not in Phoenix, Arizona.”

“The weather effects on photovoltaic systems in Arizona will be vastly different than those in Wisconsin or Louisiana,” said Joseph Karas, co-author and materials science doctoral graduate now at the National Renewable Energy Lab. “The ability to collect data from a variety of climates and locations will support the development of universally effective solar cells and systems.”

The research team was able to test its approach at ASU’s Research Park facility, where the Solar Lab is primarily solar powered. For its next step, the lab is negotiating with a power plant in California that is looking to add a megawatt of silicon photovoltaics to its power profile.

The system, which can monitor reliability and lifespan remotely for larger, interconnected systems, will be a major breakthrough for the power industry.

“Most residential solar rooftop systems aren’t owned by the homeowner, they are owned by a utility company or broker with a vested interest in monitoring photovoltaic efficiency,” said Andre’ Augusto, head of Silicon Heterojunction Research at ASU’s Solar Power Laboratory and a co-author of the paper.

“Likewise, as developers of malls or even planned residential communities begin to incorporate solar power into their construction projects, the interest in monitoring at scale will increase, ” Augusto said.

According to Bowden, it’s all about the data, especially when it can be monitored automatically and remotely — data for the bankers, data for developers, and data for the utility providers.

If Bill Gates’ smart city, planned about 30 miles from Phoenix in Buckeye, Ariz., uses the team’s measurement technology, “It could become the IoT of Photovoltaics,” said Bowden.

Section 61 Compliance – Air quality monitoring for the construction sector

Praxis/Urban units are part of a solution, allowing contractors to meet air quality monitoring requirements during construction and roadworks in town and city centres.

All local authorities in London have declared air quality management areas (AQMA’s) that cover their entire borough. The control of dust and emissions during construction projects is now a requirement in London boroughs and for many City Councils across the UK.

As a result, under Section 61 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974, construction or roadworks contractors must set out plans for air quality monitoring and dust management in order to gain consent for the works. Noise and vibration management also falls under Section 61.

Praxis/Urban units are able to offer a reliable, robust solution ‘out of the box’ to monitor:

  • Particulates: PM10, PM2.5, PM1
  • Gases: (4 x selectable)
  • Temperature, relative humidity
  • Location (GPS)

Data is securely transferred to customers in real-time and accessed via any internet-enabled device, wherever they are in the world. This means data can easily be viewed using a smartphone or tablet. Data is securely stored in the cloud and device diagnostics and updates are made remotely, reducing the need for visits to site for either maintenance or calibration of the units.

For the end-user, this really is a plug and play solution, leaving them to concentrate on the construction project without getting bogged down in the details of compliance.

Air Quality Consultancy

South Coast Science works with EM-Monitors, whose monitoring and testing services include the supply of Praxis/Urban devices to industry as well as training. They also work with consultants, manufacturers and end-users to understand their application and provide the best monitoring solutions in a number of fields including stack, water and biogas.

Adrian Thiedeman, EM-Monitors, comments: “Our air quality customers need systems that give precise, accurate and reliable results that can be relied upon to truly represent the actual conditions on-site. The Praxis/Urban delivers all of this.”

Megger acquires Vespula

Megger has acquired the electrical certification company Vespula, based in the UK.

The Vespula software offers electrical contractors a simple to use, cloud-based platform for completion and storage of their electrical installation certificates. The software has been developed to operate seamlessly across multiple operating systems, including Windows, Mac, Android and iOS – both on and offline – allowing certificate completion either on site, using a mobile device, or from the office.

The Vespula software extends Megger’s solution to the electrical contract and maintenance industry, where the move to digital certification has been growing. It complements Megger’s portfolio of industry leading electrical test and measurement equipment, whilst ensuring compatibility with our range of Bluetooth enabled multifunction testers that currently offer storage and downloading.

Simon Wood, Business Development Manager for Megger’s European electrical market commented, “Megger are always striving to better serve our customers, and we are really excited to be able to offer this as a simple solution to certificate creation.”