Control Engineering's Process Instrumentation Enewsletter -- October/November 2000


In this issue:

Here we go again!

Welcome to the sophomore effort of the Instrumentation and Process Sensing newsletter. I have heard from a number of readers and, quite frankly, I welcome all comments. Nothing is tougher on an author than thinking information is being sent into a vacuum. Let me know you're out there!

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Instrumentation & Control 2001

Got some extra frequent flyer miles? The first ever Confederation of Indian Industry Instrumentation & Controls 2001-an international exhibition and conference-will be a focused business fair during India Expo 2001. It is scheduled from February 15th to 19th at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. The show, which is expected to draw 300,000 visitors, will feature 2,500 exhibitors from over 50 countries. Instrumentation & Control 2001 will cover a wide range of instruments and systems for testing, analyzing, and measuring of physical, chemical, and biological properties. Instrumentation for monitoring process parameters such as temperature, pressure, flow, and level will also be showcased. More information is available online at or email .

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Truly fine citizen

Levittown, Pa. -Not all sources of industrial atmospheric discharge are potentially polluting or toxic. However, they can raise flags with neighbors as to the environmental friendliness of an operation. Remaining a good environmental citizen often requires performance verification of process equipment using periodic opacity testing. Datatest Inc. offers a portable opacity monitor that is intended for performance checks of precipitators and baghouses. It can be also used to periodically check multiple stack sources. The lightweight (14 lb) microprocessor-based device features a pulsed LED transceiver with probe. Its control unit has an 80-character backlit LCD with keypad for programming and instrumentation operation. The unit comes with a recorder and serial port interfaces. A purge air blower with hose in optional.

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Measuring density

Many industrial processes require continuous measurement of density to operate efficiently and guarantee product quality. According to Jonas Berge of Smar Singapore Pte Ltd. (Houston, Tex., Sertaozinho, Brazil), this includes sugar mills, breweries, wineries, dairy and other beverage industries, chemical and petrochemical industries. In many process industries, density is one of the best indicators of product composition.

Density is traditionally measured by determining the differential pressure between two points with a known vertical separation. Density is directly proportional to differential pressure in this instrument configuration. Because differential pressure is measured, the effect of level or ullage pressure is canceled out and it does not matter if the vessel is open or closed. The level cannot fall below the upper diaphragm, however, if this method is to work. Mr. Berge points out that Smar produces a single integrated density transmitter based on this principle. The single unit reduces process penetrations and potential leak sites, can normalize actual density to a reference temperature condition, and internally and accurately computes density values in °Brix, °Gay-Lussac, °Plato, percent concentration, and other units control engineers may have forgotten about after Chemistry 102.

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Rising gas prices
got you down, bunky?

Here in the Midwest gasoline prices have enjoyed an unprecedented hike over the past couple of months. In fact, the Chicago Metro area-my home base-has taken the brunt of the increase. Even with the prices finally moderating, local media continues to cover the latest 'gas crisis' and the reasons for it ad nauseum. At the heart of the story is inadequate refinery capacity, an out-of-commission pipeline, numerous gas taxes, possible price gouging, reformulated gasoline, etc., etc.

No matter how this situation plays out, one thing is for sure-low-sulfur reformulated gasoline does exist and can be accurately analyzed. Used by gasoline analysts to monitor for sulfur contamination, the Model 9000S Total Sulfur Analyzer manufactured by ANTEK Instruments Inc. (Houston, Tex.) uses patented combustion/fluorescence technology. The device is said to providefast analysis time and both application and calibration versatility. The 9000S complies with all apparatus requirements specified in the recently revised ASTM D-5453-00 test method to provide reliable sulfur measurement.

Gosh, I feel much better knowing one cause of the controversy is rooted in fact. They don't call me Dick 'Grassy Knoll' Johnson for nothing.

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Increasing use of
digital valve positioners

Dedham, Mass.-According to its 'Control Valve Worldwide Outlook' study, the ARC Advisory Group has determined that the worldwide digital valve positioner market will nearly triple by the year 2005. Senior analyst, David Clayton concludes, 'manufacturers in the process industries are realizing the numerous benefits offered through the integration of intelligent positioners with Plant Asset Management systems.' The study sees digital valve positioners as the key to creating a predictive maintenance environment, expanding the 'health monitoring' that has been used with pumps and motors for years. Mr. Clayton says, 'The recent flood of digital valve positioner products is the leading force driving growth in the worldwide control valve market.'

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Archive, or 'Honey, I'd
Like to Shrink Those Instruments.'

Reported in Control Engineering magazine 45 years ago. 'Highlight of the recent Electronics Components Conference held in Los Angeles was a spirited after dinner debate on whether or not 'Transistors will soon replace vacuum tubes.' Some sample quotes include:

  • Dr. Louis Ridenour (International Telemetering): 'The electronic tube is a monstrous and improbable device that burns out quickly.'


  • Dr. W.R. Baker (General Electric): 'Tube costs will be reduced by use of automation in manufacturing.'


  • Dr. Harper Q. North (Pacific Semiconductor): 'The cost of transistors is going down so rapidly that there might be a period of temporary overshoot in which manufacturers would pay users to take transistors.'


  • Major General C.S. Irvine (Air Material Command): 'Transistors are like a new baby that has just learned to say 'goo.''


  • 'At the end of the contest, the applause meter (using vacuum tubes) favored the anti-tube faction. A visiting debating professor's report stated that 'both sides showed complete lack of timidity, failed to get to the point, contradicted themselves, and frequently agreed with the opposition.' He gave the negative fewer demerits. Dr. Simon Ramo (from Ramo-Wooldridge Corp., the moderator) called the results 'debatable.''

Hooray for the eventual electronic component miniaturization that followed this debate!

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