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Smart tomographic sensors for advanced industrial process control

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - TOMOCON (Smart tomographic sensors for advanced industrial process control)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2022-02-28

With the most recent progress in fast data processing on smart scalable parallel hardware architectures imaging techniques have reached the capability of being employed as sensors in advanced real-time control systems. A decisive gap in the process industry is however the lack of qualified distributed process parameter measurements for optimal control. Process tomography is a ground-breaking technology to bridge this gap as it can give insights into opaque process components and materials.

The European Training Network “Smart tomographic sensors for advanced industrial process control (TOMOCON)”, composed of 12 international academic institutions, 15 industry partners and 15 early stage researchers, dedicated its efforts in research in the emerging field of industrial process control using smart tomographic sensors. The project generated new scientific and technical knowledge in this emerging field; developed and demonstrated new technological solutions of advanced industrial control by tomographic sensors and aligned tomography-based process control with the concepts of big data analysis, advanced human-machine interfaces, knowledge-based control as well as sensor integration into a networked production according to the future needs of the industrial associated partners.

Together with world-leading industrial sensor and control solution providers as well as process engineering and production companies, TOMOCON demonstrated the functionality of tomography-assisted process control in four industry-relevant demonstration cases that are inline fluid separation, microwave drying, continuous metal casting and batch crystallization.

TOMOCON further educated its 15 early stage researchers in a new way that combined unique scientific and soft skill training based on intersectoral, international and interdisciplinary experiences.
Research conducted within the TOMOCON project included the technological development of a variety of tomographic sensors to fit the different requirements and control objectives for the four demonstration processes: Electrical Resistance Tomography (ERT) and Wire-Mesh Sensors (WMS) for inline fluid separation, Electrical Capacitance Tomography (ECT) and Microwave Tomography (MWT) for microwave drying, Contactless Inductive Flow Tomography (CIFT) and Magnetic Induction Tomography (MIT) for continuous casting and Ultrasound Tomography (UST) and ERT for batch crystallization.

For each process, the appropriate numerical methods have been selected resulting in the choice of different numerical tools: The in-house JADIM code for inline fluid separation, COMSOL Multiphysics for microwave drying, OpenFOAM for continuous casting and ANSYS Fluent for batch crystallization.

Ultimately, controller structures with a working tomography-based feedback loop have been achieved for all four demonstrations. Several factors enabled this, including artificial intelligence methods (machine learning, neural networks) for tomography data processing and advanced system identification methods applied to large sets of experimental data from the demonstration processes.

The research results and findings have been published in a significant number of impactful scientific publications in high-ranking scientific journals such as MDPI Sensors, IEEE Access, Flow Measurement and Instrumentation, Physical Review E, Chemical Engineering Research and Design, IEEE Transactions on Antennas and Propagation etc. On average, each ESR published 4,7 journal articles as the main or co-author. The ESRs also presented their research results and findings at renowned international conferences and workshops such as VINCI 2019, EuCAP 2020, the IEEE Asia-Pacific Microwave Conference (APMC 2020), SteelSim 2021, AMPERE 2021, amongst others. On average, each ESR participated in 3,4 conferences/workshops during the research programme.

Furthermore, the training programme that was designed and delivered to the ESRs contained four internal workshops, three summer schools, the Final TOMOCON Symposium and in total over 60 secondments to academic and industrial partners, as well as local training all in line with the technical and transferable/soft skills needs.

The latest research results and findings were also published on the TOMOCON Website, in press releases and articles and on the TOMOCON channels on the social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Youtube.
The TOMOCON research and training programme has fully enhanced the professional expertise and the scientific and transferable skills of the ESRs. Through the combination of internal workshops, summer schools, local training, secondments and soft skills courses, the ESRs have gained a deeper understanding and scientific knowledge in the fields of sensor design and materials, advanced data analysis, complex modelling and simulation as well as control. This knowledge and expertise was ultimately implemented in the four final demonstrations at the end of the project. The TOMOCON Consortium furthermore enhanced the development of these aspects by establishing a true multidisciplinary (4 different research disciplines), international (11 countries, 1 outside Europe) and inter-sectoral (12 partners from public sector, 15 partners form private sector) research programme.

TOMOCON also improved the career perspectives and expertise of the ESRs by offering visits and training in the network partners’ top level research facilities, e.g. during company visits to the industrial partners Siemens, Linde, Netrix, Tata Steel and Shell. This multi-level development of scientific/technical and transferable skills has helped the ESRs to become independent thinkers, junior leaders in science and entrepreneurs of the future - all skills specifically needed and searched for by high-level employers thus providing new career perspectives which would have not been easily accessible without the education through the TOMOCON network.

Research on advanced process control is emerging worldwide, particularly in the US and Asia. We are at a point when technological breakthroughs in novel tomographic sensors and control strategies are needed to secure Europe's leading position in this field. The TOMOCON project has paved the way for that. Research conducted within the TOMOCON project included significant technological developments of several fundamental tomography modalities including ERT, ECT, WMS, MIT, UST, MWT and CIFT. These tomographic modalities were developed in close connection with the TOMOCON demonstrations. That means their development was driven by the requirements of real-time control. The TOMOCON results represent a considerable development towards the practical applicability of tomography-based process control.

The large involvement of the private sector from SMEs to global players and of leading research institutions has also significantly enhanced the research and innovation capacity of all participating organizations resulting in improvements of processes and follow-up projects.

By making a significant contribution in high-impact research and innovation in the field of process tomography and control and significantly advancing the doctoral education in this field, TOMOCON has become a European leading network in tomography-based industrial process control thereby acting as a role model for the European Research Area.
TOMOCON Workshop Delft, 27-28 June 2019
TOMOCON Summer School Lublin, 26-28 September 2018
WCIPT-9, 2-6 September 2018
TOMOCON Kick-Off Meeting Dresden, 17-20 April 2018
Company Visit Linde, 20 April 2018
Company Visit Tata Steel, 22-23 November 2018
TOMOCON Workshop Lodz, 24-25 September 2018
TOMOCON 3rd Virtual Workshop, 22-24 July 2020
TOMOCON Control Workshop Liberec, 19-24 September 2019
TOMOCON Summer School Delft & Company Visit Shell, 1-3 July 2019
Company Visit Netrix, 26 September 2018
TOMOCON Final Symposium Toulouse, 25-27 August 2021
Company Visit Siemens, 19 April 2018
Inline Fluid Separation Demonstration at TU Delft
Best Paper Award at International Interdisciplinary PhD Workshop 2019