111111
(12)
(54)
1111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111
US007272525B2
United States Patent
(10)
Bennett et al.
(45)
PORTABLE FLUID SENSING DEVICE AND
METHOD
(58)
Patent No.:
US 7,272,525 B2
Date of Patent:
Sep.18,2007
Field of Classification Search .................. 702/45,
702/50,100; 73/861.19,861.24
See application file for complete search history.
(75)
(73)
Inventors: James Bennett, Santa Clara, CA (US);
G. Cameron Dales, Saratoga, CA (US);
John M. Feland, III, Palo Alto, CA
(US); Oleg Kolosov, San Jose, CA
(US); Eric Low, Berkeley, CA (US);
Leonid Matsiev, San Jose, CA (US);
William C. Rust, Mountain View, CA
(US); Mikhail Spitkovsky, Sunnyvale,
CA (US); Mark Uhrich, Redwood City,
CA (US)
Assignee: Visyx Technologies, Inc., SUilllyvale,
CA (US)
(56)
References Cited
U.S. PATENT DOCUMENTS
5,586,445
5,708,191
5,741,961
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Bessler
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(Continued)
FOREIGN PATENT DOCUMENTS
DE
100 50 299 Al
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(Continued)
( *)
Notice:
Subject to any disclaimer, the term of this
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U.S.C. 154(b) by 0 days.
(21)
Appl. No.: 111111,846
(22)
Filed:
Brand, Oliver; "Micromachined Viscosity Sensor for Real-Time
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(65)
(Continued)
Primary
Prior Publication Data
US 2006/0031030 Al
Feb. 9,2006
(60)
Provisional application No. 60/564,3 71, filed on Apr.
21,2004.
(51)
Int. Cl.
GOlF 25/00
GOlL 27/00
GOlN 11/00
Examiner~Michael
(57)
Related U.S. Application Data
(52)
OTHER PUBLICATIONS
(2006.01)
(2006.01)
(2006.01)
ABSTRACT
Fluid monitoring methods, systems and apparatus are disclosed, including a portable subassembly that is in electrical
communication with a sensor in contact with the fluid being
monitred. Preferred embodiments for the sensor include one
or more flexural resonator sensing elements. In preferred
embodiments the sensor subassembly is ported to multiple
fluidic systems to monitor the fluid properties in an efi'ecient
mauner.
U.S. CI.......................................... 7021100; 702/50
110
500~
Nghiem
8 Claims, 23 Drawing Sheets
510
610
501
530<:""-rTI~~L520
II
II
50
I'~t----_---;11<t:/;t-----600
630
US 7,272,525 B2
2
u.s. PATENT DOCUMENTS
6,082,181
6,182,499
6,223,589
6,311,549
6,336,353
6,393,895
6,401,519
6,494,079
6,845,663
6,873,916
2002/0178805
2004/0107055
2005/0145019
A
7/2000 Greenwood
Bl
2/2001 McFarland et al.
Bl
5/2001 Dickert et al.
B1
11/2001 Thundat et al.
B2
112002 Matsiev et al.
Bl
5/2002 Matsiev et al.
Bl
6/2002 McFarland et al.
Bl 12/2002 Matsiev et al.
B2 * 112005 Lopatin et al. .. ......... 73/290 V
B2
3/2005 Kolosov
Al 12/2002 DiFoggio et al.
6/2004 Kolosov et al.
Al
Al * 7/2005 Matsiev et al. ............ 73/53.01
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EP
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WO
WO
WO
o 282 251
o 943 091
W099/18431
WO 01167068
WO 02/077613
WO 02/099414
9/1988
5/2003
4/1999
9/2001
10/2002
12/2002
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pp. 72-80.
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704-708.
Matsiev, Leonid, "Application of Flexural Mechanical Resonators
to Simultaneous Measurements of a Liquid Density and Viscosity",
IEEE Ultrasonics Symposium Proceedings, 1999, pp. 457-460.
Trolier, Susan, "Preparation of Chemically Etched Piezoelectric
Resonators for Density Meters and Viscometers", Mat. Res. Bull.,
vol. 22, 1987, pp. 1267-1274.
U.S. Appl. No. 60/456,767 entitled "Mechanical Resonator" filed
Mar. 21, 2003; Padowitz et al. (19 pages).
U.S. Appl. No. 60/456,767 entitled "Resonator Sensor Assembly"
filed Mar. 21, 2003; Kolosov et al. (22 pages).
U.S. Appl. No. 10/394,543 entitled "Application Specific Integrated
Circuihy for Controlling Analysis for a Fluid" filed Mar. 21, 2003;
Kolosov et al. (57 pages).
U.S. Appl. No. 10/452,264 entitled "Machine Fluid Sensor and
Method" filed Jun. 2, 2003; Matsiev et al. (32 pages).
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Fluid Sensing System and Method" filed Sep. 25, 2003; Matsiev et
al. (46 pages).
PCT Application Ser. No. PCTiUS03/32983 entitled "Environmental Control System Fluid Sensing System and Method" filed Oct. 17,
2003; Matsiev et al. (53 pages).
U.S. Appl. No. 10/804,446 entitled "Mechanical Resonator" filed
Mar. 19, 2004; Kolosov et al. (20 pages).
PCT Application Ser. No. PCTiUS04/008555 entitled "Application
Specific Integrated Circuitry for Controlling Analysis for a Fluid"
filed Mar. 19, 2004; Kolosov et al. (66 pages).
U.S. Appl. No. 10/804,379 entitled "Resonator Sensor Assembly"
filed Mar. 19, 2004; Kolosov et al. (23 pages).
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Sensor Assembly" filed Mal'. 19, 2004; Kolosov et al. (24 pages).
* cited by examiner
FLUIDIC SYSTEM I (100)
FIG. 1
~
~
ti ; -.!..2a_
(PORTABLE)
1\ SENSOR
.erJl
.
~
~
LOCATION A (101 A)
~
=
~
J2b_
__
LOCATION B (101B)
A
r---- -----.."
rJJ
t'D
"?
~
~~
FLUIDIC SYSTEM
-OR-
~~~---
J
t 2c _
t,, _
]I
(200)
~-------+==LOCATION
_
-1 _
__
N
0
0
......:t
A (201A)
~LOCATION B (201B)
rJJ
=-
t'D
t'D
~
10(
0
PORTABLE )
SENSOR
SUBASSEMBLY
••
•
N
W
FLUIDIC SYSTEM N (300)
tn _ _ _
tn _ _ _
~
-1 _
___
~
I
LOCATION A (301 A)
~LOCATION B (301B)
d
rJJ
-.l
N
-.l
N
U-
N
Ul
=
N
u.s. Patent
Sep.18,2007
US 7,272,525 B2
Sheet 2 of 23
100
FIG. 2A
80
-----
FIG. 2B
A
"'----
80'
A
----------------- , ----------------- ,
(
40
\
/
/
/100
A
20
---500
J' __ ""
50b
- ......
10
40
/100
A
1~_+
30
------500
50b
40
A
~
;60··
.'~
. . :; . : :.~ . -:
.,...,
.
. " -4'-:-
., .....
u.s. Patent
Sep.18,2007
US 7,272,525 B2
Sheet 3 of 23
FIG. 2C
22 (OPTIONAL)
40
1
/100
---500
50b
26c
32
34 (OPTIONAL, BUT PREFERRED)
36 (OPTIONAL, BUT PREFERRED)
FIG. 3A
110
u.s. Patent
Sep.18,2007
US 7,272,525 B2
Sheet 4 of 23
FIG. 38
FIG. 3C
100
60
66~
.
.
..:,r-.-'·
I~'?;
"
62
4
. " ...
:<1 .....
110
62
670
: <I
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a
'<1',
68b
67c
'''' ""
'"
.
,
".
'"
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.'
~
","',,"
.
. '" ... . J'
"'.
64
63
. .A
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"
4,'
....
.
.
"or-
"
.".
'"
'
100
110
71
680
:.4
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:
..
~
'.
'~~
..
~"
. ./I' .
. </
FIG. 3D
63
.
.
690
70
. '"
63
u.s. Patent
Sep.18,2007
US 7,272,525 B2
Sheet 5 of 23
72
FI G. 3E
~T77::I\t:~-=--- 63
~"'r"+'-~~-_--63
(100 .110
,
4,.3. ' ' 4
''A ,', ',~,
62
,...----t.~;............, ~-75
760
780
FIG. 3F
64
,'" 4:
1
,;:-100
110
75
~,4
'4,'
4
780
760
76b
4
,
"
'
FIG. 3G
63
u.s. Patent
US 7,272,525 B2
Sheet 6 of 23
Sep.18,2007
FIG. 4A
SIGNAL
PROCESSING
CIRCUITRY
20
30
10 (10')
32
G. 48
22
\
DATA STORAGE CKT
SIGNAL ACTIVATION CKT
DA TA DISPLAY CKT
SIGNAL CONDITIONING CKT
DATA TRANSMISSION CKT
DATA DERIVATION CKT
24
26
36
\.~---.. ~--~)\.-----~ ~------)
Y
Y
30
20
10 (10')
32
3
\
~32C
~34e
r
36
22
36d
~2
FIG. 4C
...
••. 32b •••
22c 22b 22~
320 22d
••• 134d 34c 34b 340 24g 24f 24e 24d 24c 24b 240
36c 3Gb 360 26e
26d 26c 26b 260
... ...
...
\.
Y
30
)\.
)
Y
20
26
4
u.s. Patent
US 7,272,525 B2
Sheet 7 of 23
Sep.18,2007
FIG. 5A
SIGNAL
PROCESSING
CIRCUITRY
20
30
1 (1 ')
\
32
FIG.
22
24
DATA STORAGE CKT
SIGNAL ACllVA1l0N CKT
DATA DISPLAY CKT
SIGNAL CONDIllONING CKT
DATA TRANSMISSION CKT
DATA DERIVAllON CKT
36
)\.26
~
)
Y
Y
30
20
1 (1')
32
22
\
32c
50
24
FIG. 5C
••• 32b •••
320 22d
22c 22b
34e
34d 34c 34b 340 249 24f 24e 24d 24c 24b
36d
.. • 36c 36b 360 26e ••• •.. 26d 26c 26b
36
30
20
26 50
u.s. Patent
Sep. 18, 2007
Sheet 8 of 23
US 7,272,525 B2
FIG. 6A
500~
501
530
~-';::""520
50
502
FIG. 68
Jr'---_
620
50
630
600
u.s. Patent
Sep.18,2007
US 7,272,525 B2
Sheet 9 of 23
FIG. 7 A
1040
~
1020
~
11 20
"---e ,/
/1
1060
_
~
1080
1100
~
,
,/"/
;'
,,/
,
I
I
""
,,
,
I
,,
,,,
,
FIG. 78
----.-1---1160
u.s. Patent
Sep. 18,2007
US 7,272,525 B2
Sheet 10 of 23
1260
r~
I
/""
~
/'\
~, , ,,/
I
~ ,,
\,
, ,I
,
\
\
\/
)
.124 o
I
\
FIG. 7C
\
)\
I
I
\
(
'
\
----1220
FIG. 70
1320
1320
....---------
FIG. 7E
"
,
----
1300
... ,
".
........................ ~'
1380
1380
1340
.-J
..
...
FIG. 7F
u.s. Patent
Sep. 18, 2007
US 7,272,525 B2
Sheet 11 of 23
2020
/2000
-----'"'""'--2040
2040
FIG. 7H
2060
2060 ----.. . . . .
2020
;2000
2040
2040
\
\
\
\
FIG. 71
2020
\--
\
2060
\
2000
)
"
\
2040
\
2040
\
I
2060
I
I
\
I
J
\ \ ,,
2060
2060
u.s. Patent
Sep.18,2007
US 7,272,525 B2
Sheet 12 of 23
FIG. 8A
/11220
TUNING FORK EQUIVALENT CIRCUIT,
(11222)
Ztf
READOUT INPUT IMPEDANCE'~n
(11224 )
--
--------
-,
/
/
\
I
\
I
!
\
-- --
(Y"1f"Y"'\~=::j__l/....;."'-::-"--~. . ""-\~ Vout
Z(wJ ,'",/
\
,(
--------------
- --
,
I
\\
Rin
\
\
I
,
~n
I
I
I
/
\
/
/
u.s. Patent
Sep.18,2007
US 7,272,525 B2
Sheet 13 of 23
FIG. 88
(1 )
(2)
(3)
Ztf= (1/icvCp)(Ro+1/icvCs+k,;Lo)
(1 /i cvCp+Ro+1 /i cvCs+icvLo
r
(4)
1
Z(cv) = Ai cv p+ B*(cv P11)1/2 (1 + i)
tmeasured = a+k*CP(measured)
tmeasured =[tcal - (tcal -1) * [CPcel/(CPcel - CPo)]] +
(5)
(6)
(7)
[CP(mecsured) *[(teal -1)/( Cpeel - CPo(vceuum»)]]
(8)
k= [(tcal -1)/(CPcal - CPo(vacuum»)]
CP(measured) IS A FUNCTION OF "k"
(9)
(10)
u.s. Patent
Sep.18,2007
Sheet 14 of 23
US 7,272,525 B2
FIG. Be
z(CrJ) = AiCrJp+8~CrJpij (1 +i)
Z(CrJ) = iCrJdL+dZ~(1 +i)
dL=Ap, dZ=B~Pl1
u.s. Patent
Sep.18,2007
US 7,272,525 B2
Sheet 15 of 23
FIG. 9A
11118
r-------------ln]f---------------------~
I
I
I
FREQUENCY
GENERATOR
11142
11132
DIGITAL
LOGIC
CONTROL
11116
11156 :
I
I
I
TF
,....----r--'-----i( SEN SOR)
SIGNAL CONDITIONING
CIRCUITRY
11316
11114
11134
11152
SIGNAL DETECTION
CIRCUITRY
11140
11117
11136
MEMORY
STORAGE
TEMPERATURE
SENSOR
ANALOG TO DIGITAL
CONVERTER
(ADC)
11150
1------11154
111590
L __________________
__
~~~~~~::_~~~~~O: )-~
11159b
ENGINE
CONTROL UNIT
(ECU)
11120
~
11121
LOCAL MACHINE
ELECTRONICS
LOCAL MACHINE
USER INTERFACE
(UI)
11122
r - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
11116
-11138 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -,
.erJl
.
~
~
~
~
=
~
(TF)
SENSOR
DIGITAL
PROCESSOR
ASIC
-----------,
I
\Z
'V
rJJ
t'D
"?
~
~~
r---
11118
------,
COMPUTER
N
o
o
......:t
..L
(
ECU
11122d
\
11123
USER INTERFACE
I
\(J
•
~
=-
t'D
t'D
~
- 11121
I
DO
DO
Do
rJJ
I
I
L ____ _
DIGITAL
DISPLAY
-I
'--11120
0\
o
N
(.,H
L----_ __
11122c
d
rJJ
11122b
111220
USER
INPUT
-.l
N
--11122
-.l
N
FIG. 98
U-
N
Ul
=
N
.erJl
.
FIG. 9C
11123
11118
~
~
~
~
\
11160~
(11132,11134,11136) r--
ANALOG I/O
(SIGNAL CONDITIONING)
AND CONVERSION
DIGITAL I/O
TEST I/O
,.....
....
rJJ
-l
I
ROM
FREQUENCY
GENERATOR
11130
RAM
I
I
I
I
I
r:
"?
~
~
11164
CPU CORE
GLUE LOGIC
I
I
I
11140'--"
t
r--------------,
USER DEFINED
DATA (ROM)
......:t
11175
-
rJJ
=-
t'D
t'D
11168
11170
-
11172
d
~
......:t
o
N
(.,H
I
I
I
I
CLOCK
I
I
I
I
rJJ
-.l
-11174
I
I_I---_~--------------.J
-_._-
o
o
______________ J
TIMER
L.--
N
-11166
I
I
I
11162
~
COMPUTER
.".
r--------------l
(
11116
f
=
t'D
./
.....
TF
(SENSOR)
\
- - -
11175
N
-.l
N
U-
N
Ul
=
N
u.s. Patent
Sep.18,2007
APPROXIMATED FLUID
CHARACTERISTICS
FIG. 90
DENSITY
TUNING FORK 1.1
TEMP. 25° C
US 7,272,525 B2
Sheet 18 of 23
OIL TYPE 1
P
VISCOSITY DIELECTRIC
CONSTANT
11
E,
E,
11
P
r---------------------------------l
L___________________
Oil TYPE 3
P
11 _________
E,
E,
OIL TYPE 4
11
P
E,
Oil TYPE 5
11
P
E,
Oil TYPE 6
11
P
Oil TYPE 2
~
CALIBRATION
VARIABLES
V1
V2
V3
V4
Vs
Va
V7
Oil TYPE N
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
P
11
E,
FIG. 9E
APPROXIMATED FLUID
CHARACTERISTICS
DENSITY
TUNING FORK 1.1
TEMP. 40° C
OIL TYPE 1
Oil TYPE 2
p'
p'
VISCOSITY DIELECTRIC
CONSTANT
11'
E,'
11'
E,'
rL01_________________________________
L-TYPE -3- - - - -p,- ------- Tt-; --------~'l
~
CALIBRATION
VARIABLES
V'
1
V'
2
V'
3
V'
4
V'
5
V'
6
V'
7
Oil TYPE 4
OIL TYPE 5
OIL TYPE 6
Oil TYPE N
p'
p'
p'
11'
E,'
11'
E,'
11'
E,'
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
p'
11'
E,'
u.s. Patent
Sep.18,2007
Sheet 19 of 23
US 7,272,525 B2
r--------------,I
I
11132
~11200a
11140
ASIC
1- _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ....1
FIG. 10A
r--------------...,
I
,,-11200b
11132
11134
11200d
(
11140
r--------------,
ASIC
11130
ASIC
L
FIG. 10B
r--------------...,
ASIC
..J
11130
11132
11132
--11200c
11134
11140
1- _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ....1
FIG. 10C
11134
11136
11140
L ______________ .J
FIG. 100
u.s. Patent
Sep.18,2007
US 7,272,525 B2
Sheet 20 of 23
FIG. 11A
r
r
o ···0
250
300
J.
\
c... GJ
10m
10a
ENTERPRISE (700)
DATABASE
FIG. 118
---- ENTERPRISE (700)
DATABASE
300
200
I
~ IT
250
~
m
•••
N
u.s. Patent
Sep. 18, 2007
US 7,272,525 B2
Sheet 21 of 23
FIG. 11C
FIG. 110
I I,ll, m._ .. N I
A
I
: (PORT)
: (MONITOR)
'VI
I I,ll. m.... N I
A
I
: (PORT)
: (MONITOR)
'VI
1c@ ~-----(SYNC)-----? ~Ob
u.s. Patent
Sep.18,2007
Sheet 22 of 23
US 7,272,525 B2
FIG. 12A
APPUCATIONS
o TRANSPORTATION (AIR, SEA, LAND, SPACE)
o WORKING VEHICLES (CONSTRUCTION, AGRICULTURE, MINING, SUB-SEA ROV. TRUCKING)
o MIUTARY VEHICLES (HMVVE, TANKS, TRUCKS, eet)
o HEAVY MACHINERY (INDUSTRIAL, MANUFACTURING)
• INDUSTRIAL WASTEWATER
• DRINKING WATER
• OIL AND GAS EXPLORATION AND PRODUCTION
(DRILUNG, WELLBORE AND PRODUCTION LOGGING, LABORATORY OIL ANALYSIS, SEPARATION)
o FUEL AND HYDROCARBON TRANSPORTATION
o REFINING (REACTORS, CONDUITS, CONDENSERS)
o PETRO CHEMICAL (REACTORS, CONDUITS, CONDENSERS)
o CHEMICAL (REACTORS, CONDUITS, CONDENSERS)
o FOOD STORAGE AND PROCESSING
o HEAT EXCHANGERS
• CRYOGENIC SYSTEMS
o BIOSENSORS
o CHEMICAL SENSORS
• POWER GENERATION (RECIPROCAL, TURBINE, HYDRO, FUEL CELLS)
o VAPOR DETECTION (HUMIDITY, FUMES)
o MEDICAL (DEVICE AND PHARMA)
o LABORATORY (AUTOMATED, HAND-HELD)
o PRINTING (INDUSTRIAL PRINTERS, DESKJET)
o MANUFACTURING (PAINTS, INKS)
o MANUFACTURING EQUIPMENT MONITORING
(CNC EQUIPMENT LUBRICANT, EXTRUSION POLYMER MONITORING)
• ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARD SAMPUNG AND MONITORING
• HOMELAND SECURITY
o PETROCHEMICAL TRANSPORTATION
FLUIDIC SYSTEMS
o ENGINES (RECIPROCAL, TURBINE, ELECTRIC)
FIG. 12B
o BRAKES (AUTOMOTIVE, INDUSTRIAL)
o TRANSMISSIONS (HYDRAUUC, GEAR)
o HEAT EXCHANGERS (RADIATORS, HVAC&R, COOLERS, CHILLERS)
o FUEL STORAGE AND TRANSMISSION
o PIPEUNES
o STORAGE TANKS
• HVAC&R SYSTEMS
• COMPRESSORS (AIR, GAS)
o VACUUM PUMPS
o GEAR BOXES
o DEWARS
o BUILDINGS (ATMOSHERICS IN BUILDINGS AND HOUSES .. aka. HUMIDITY SENSOR)
• MAMMAUAN BODY (VEINS, LUNGS, GUT)
o WELLS (OIL, GAS, WATER)
o PRINTING PRESS
o TURBINES
o LUBRICATION SYSTEMS
u.s. Patent
Sep.18,2007
Sheet 23 of 23
US 7,272,525 B2
FIG. 12C
FLUIDS
o OILS, GREASES, HYDRAUUCS (SYNlHEllCS AND HC)
o GASES (REACTOR FEEDS, HC'S, INORGANICS INCLUDING CRYO'S)
o HEAT EXCHANGER FLUID (WATER, GLYCOL, "DOWTHERMS".
REFRIGERANTS)
o CRUDE OIL
o FUEL (GASOUNE. DEISEL, BIODEISEL, ElHANOL, MElHANOL, HYDROGEN)
o MAMMAUAN (BLOOD, URINE. VAGINAL)
o FOOD (BA TIER, OILS, GREASES, GELS, PASTES, ALCOHOLS)
o SOLVENTS (LABORATORY, INDUSTRIAL, HOME)
o CLEANERS (WlNDSHEILD WASHER FLUUID, ETC.)
oiNK
o FLUIDIZED BEDS
o AMBIENT AIR
o EXHAUST GASES
o HYDROGEN
o INERT GASES
US 7,272,525 B2
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PORTABLE FLUID SENSING DEVICE AND
METHOD
fluidic systems where such fluidic systems are of a common
type but are very numerous (e.g., residential air-conditioning
fluidic systems) and/or are found within a COlllllon service
sector but have temporally and/or spatially diverse fluid
characteristics (e.g., transportation vehicle fluidic systems).
BACKGROUND OF INVENTION
TIle present invention generally relates to the field of fluid
sensors and more particularly to the field of portable fluid
sensor devices and methods useful in field operations,
including field operations involving process monitoring,
process control and/or process or system servicing. The
present invention relates, in preferred embodiments, to portable fluid sensor devices and methods adapted for use in
closed fluid systems such as recirculating fluid systems (e.g.,
environmental control systems, engine systems, transportation vehicle systems, etc.). The present invention relates, in
particularly preferred embodiments, to the field of fluid
sensor devices and methods involving a mechanical resonator sensor such as a flexural resonator sensor.
Effective approaches for measuring characteristics of fluids using mechanical resonators are disclosed in conunonlyowned U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,401,519; 6,393,895; 6,336,353;
6,182,499; 6,494,079 and EP 0943091 BI, each of which are
incorporated by reference herein for all purposes. See also,
Matsiev, "Application 0.(Flexural Mechanical Resonators to
Simultaneous Measurements of Liquid Density and Viscosity," IEEE International Ultrasonics Symposium, Oct.
17-20,1999, Lake Tahoe, Nev., which is also incorporated
by reference herein for all purposes. The use of a quartz
oscillator in a sensor has been described as well in U.S. Pat.
Nos. 6,223,589 and 5,741,961, and in Hammond, et al., "An
Acoustic Automotive Engine Oil Quality Sensor", Proceedings of the 1997 IEEE International Frequency Control
Symposium, IEEE Catalog No. 97CH36016, pp. 72-80, May
28-30, 1997.
TIle use of other types of sensors is also known in the art.
For example, the use of acoustic sensors has been addressed
in applications such as viscosity measurement in 1. W. Grate,
et al, Anal. Chem. 65, 940A-948A (1993)); "Viscosity and
Density Sensing with Ultrasonic Plate "Waves", B. A. Martin,
S. W. Wenzel, and R. M. White, Sensors and Actuators,
A21-A23 (1990), 704-708; "Preparation of chemically
etched piezoelectric resonators for density meters and viscometers", S. Trolier, Q. C. Xu, R. E. Newnham, Mat. Res.
Bull. 22, 1267-74 (1987); "On-line Sensor for Density and
T1scosity Measurement of a Liquid or Slurry for Process
Control in the Food Industry", Margaret S. Greenwood,
PhD. James R. Skorpik, Judith Anu Bamberger, P. E. Sixth
Conference on Food Engineering, 1999 AIChE Anuual
Meeting, Dallas, Tex.; U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,708,191; 5,886,250;
6,082,180; 6,082,181; and 6,311,549; and "Micromachined
viscosity sensor jar real-time polymerization monitoring",
O. Brand, 1. M. English, S. A. Bidstmp, M. G. Allen,
Transducers '97, 121-124 (1997). See also, U.S. Pat. No.
5,586,445 ("Low Refrigerant Charge Detection Using a
Combined Pressure/Temperature Sensor").
Notwithstanding the above, there remains a need in the art
for alternative or improved sensor devices and methods for
efficiently evaluating fluids used in fluidic systems, including for example in residential, commercial and industrial
process streams and/or in machines used in such process
streams and/or in stand-alone machines. Examples in which
such a need exists include those fluidic systems used in
cOlmection with the petroleum, chemical, pharmaceutical,
healthcare, envirOllllental, military, aerospace, construction,
heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, refrigeration, food,
and transportation industries. In particular, there remains a
need in the art for a cost-effective approach for servicing
SUMMARY OF INVENTION
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It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide
improved sensor devices and methods for efficiently monitoring fluids used in fluidic systems. In particular, it is an
object of the invention to a cost-effective approach for
monitoring multiple, numerous and/or diverse fluidic systems. In preferred embodiments, it is an object of the
invention to provide devices and methods for efficiently and
effectively monitoring multiple properties of a fluid in such
fluidic systems.
Briefly, therefore, the present invention is broadly
directed to various methods for monitoring a property of a
fluid in a fluidic system using a sensor, such as a mechanical
resonator sensor. In preferred embodiments, the sensor is a
flexural resonator sensor.
The invention is also broadly directed to various systems
for monitoring a property of one or more fluids in one or
more fluidic systems, and in preferred embodiments, in
multiple fluidic systems. The system generally comprises a
sensor interfaced with a fluidic system, such as a mechanical
resonator sensor. In preferred embodiments, the sensor is a
flexural resonator sensor. The system also comprises one or
more circuits, such as signal processing circuits and/or data
retrieval circuits.
The invention is further broadly directed to various apparatus for use in monitoring a property of one or more fluids
in one or more fluidic systems. Such apparatus generally
comprise a personally portable or hand-held unit-sensor or
sensor subassembly. In preferred embodiments, the unit
includes a flexural resonator sensor or flexural resonator
sensor subassembly.
In the methods, systems and apparatus of the present
invention, a property of a fluid in a fluidic system is
monitored using a sensor interfaced with the fluidic system.
In some embodiments, the interfaced sensor is formed from
and includes at least one sensor subassembly interfaced with
an installed unit that is either a sensor or another sensor
subassembly. Likewise, the systems and apparatus of the
present invention comprise a sensor or a sensor subassembly. In each case, the sensor is preferably a mechanical
resonator sensor, and is most preferably a flexural resonator
sensor. In preferred embodiments, a flexural resonator sensor comprises a flexural resonator sensing element having a
sensing surface for contacting the fluid being sensed. In
operation during a sensing period, the sensing surface of a
flexural resonator displaces or is displaced by at least a
portion of the fluid being sensed. The flexural resonator
sensor can be operated passively or actively, and if actively
operated, is preferably excited using a stimulus signal. The
particular nature of the stimulus signal is not critical, but in
some embodiments, the stimulus signal can be a waveform
having a frequency (e.g., a predetermined frequency) or
having a range of frequencies (e.g., being swept over a
determined or predetermined range of frequencies), and in
each such case, having a frequency or a range offrequencies
of less than about 1 MHz. In some embodiments, additional
sensors (e.g., such as temperature and/or pressure sensors)
can be employed in combination with a mechanical resonator sensor such as a flexural resonator sensor. In some
embodiments, alternative sensors can be employed in place
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of a mechanical resonator sensor such as a flexural resonator
sensor. Further discussion of preierred sensors and sensor
subassemblies (comprising or more components of a sensor), as well as the preferred use thereof, are described
hereinafter.
fluidic system is sensed during a second sensing period
usina the (second) interfaced sensor to generate data associate"d with one or more properties of the fluid in the second
fluidic system. The generated data is stored, displayed or
transmitted using the data retrieval circuit of the (second)
interfaced sensor.
As an alternative (or additional) example, after the first
sensing period, the method can further generally comprise
porting the disinterfaced sensor or. t~e subassembl~ thereof
to a second location of the first flUIdiC system, and lllterfacina the disinterfaced ported sensor or ported sensor subasse~nbly with the first fluidic system at the second location
thereof to form a (second) interfaced sensor. The fluid in the
fluidic system is sensed during a second sensing period at the
second location using the interfaced sensor to generate data
associated with one or more properties of the fluid at the
second location in the fluidic system. The generated data is
stored, displayed or transmitted using the data retrieval
circuit.
As another alternative (or additional) example, after the
first sensing period, the method can further generally comprise porting the disinterfaced ported sensor or the ported
sensor subassembly thereof to the first fluidic system at a
later second time, and interfacing the disinterfaced ported
sensor or ported sensor subassembly with the first location
of the first fluidic system at the second time to fornl an
interfaced sensor. The fluid in the fluidic system is sensed at
the same first location during the second sensing period
using the interfaced sensor to generate data associated with
one or more properties of the fluid at the second time in the
fluidic system. The generated data is stored, displayed or
transmitted at the second time in the fluidic system using the
data retrieval circuit.
Generally, in any of the embodiments discussed herein,
fluid properties of a fluidic system can be monitored eit~er
locally (at the fluidic system) or remotely (at a locatIOn
removed from the fluidic system)---or both locally and
remotely, including for example with different degree~ of
information available locally and remotely. Localmomtoring can include one or more display d~vices, includi~g for
example a user interface allowing user lllPUtioutput With the
interfaced sensor and/or with the ported sensor or ported
sensor subassembly. Remote monitoring can include a
remote data repository (e.g., remote, centrally-located server
comprising a database), and can additio~ally or altern~tively
also include a user interface. Hard-Wired and/or Wireless
conl1llunications can facilitate remote monitoring of fluid
properties in the fluidic system, including data trans~~r
between any of one or more of: (i) the interfaced sensor, (11)
the ported sensor or ported sensor subassembly and/or (iii)
one or more remote data reception units (e.g., remote
monitoring station). Additionally, at least a portion of s~ch
comlllunications can be effected over known and developlllg
conl1llunication infrastructures using known and developing
protocols, such as internet infrastructures and protocols
(both hard-wired and wireless infrastructure and protocols).
Such remote monitoring can be supplemented by local
General Overview-Methods
Generally, the method comprises porting a sensor or a
sensor subassembly to a (first) fluidic system. The ported
sensor or ported sensor subassembly is interfaced with the
(first) fluidic system at a (first) location. J?e interf~ced
sensor is operationally configured for generatlllg or retneving data (directly or upon activation in an active se~lsing
step) that can be associated with one or more propert~es of
the fluid. Hence, the interfaced sensor generally compnses a
sensing element (e.g., a flexural resonator) having a sensing
surface for contacting the fluid, and a data retrieval circuit in
electrical cOllllllunication with the sensing element. The data
retrieval circuit can be in electrical communication with the
sensing element directly, or alternatively, via a signal processing circuit that processes (e.g., via signal conditioni~g
circuitry that amplifies, biases, converts, etc. or otherwise
conditions, and/or via data derivation circuitry that detects a
signal of or that deternlines a parameter based on) raw da~a
coming from the sensing element or from a storage media
storing such raw data. In preferred embodiments, the interfaced sensor comprises a sensing element (e.g., a flexural
resonator) having a sensing surface for contacting the fluid,
a signal processing circuit (e.g., an amplifying circuit) in
electrical communication with the flexural resonator, and a
data retrieval circuit in electrical communication with the
signal processing circuit. Regardless of the particular confiauration for the interfaced sensor, the fluid is sensed,
or passively, using the interfaced sensor during a
first sensing period to generate data associated with.one or
more properties of the fluid. The generated data IS then
stored (e.g., in memory within a data storage media), displayed (e.g., in a graphical user interface ~r other displ~y
device) or (meaning additionally or alternatively) transnutted, for example between one or more of: an installed related
components of the fluidic system; the interfaced sensor; the
ported sensor subassembly; or a remote dat~ reposit0I?" and
in any case, using for example, hard-Wired or Wireless
comllllmications protocols.
Typically, at some time after the first sensing period
(regardless of whether there are additi?nal intermittent sensing periods), the general method can iurther generally comprise disinterfacing (e.g., disengaging) the sensor or se~s?r
subassembly from the (first) location of the (first) flUIdiC
system. The disinterfaced sensor or disinterfaced ~ensor
subassembly can be ported away from the (first) locatIOn of
the (first) fluidic system, and thereafter, the sensor or sensor
subassembly can be (re)ported to one or more of (i) another
(second) fluidic system, (ii) another (second) locat.ion of the
(first) fluidic system, or (iii) the same ~first) l~catlon of t~e
(first) fluidic system-in each case for mterfacmg thereWith
to monitor a property of a fluid during a separate discrete
(second) sensing period. Optionally, the sensing element
surface exposed to the fluid under test can be washed (e.g.,
usina rinse water or other appropriate solvent) or alternativel;, disposed and replaced, between sensing periods.
In particular for example, after first sensing period, the
general method can further generally comprise porting the
dis interfaced sensor or the subassembly thereof to a second
fluidic system and interfacing the dis interfaced ported sensor
or ported sensor subassembly with the second fluidic system
to fornl a (second) interfaced sensor. The fluid in the second
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monitoring.
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General Overview-Systems and Apparatus
In the systems or apparatus of the invention, the ported
sensor, the ported sensor subassembly and/or the interfa~ed
sensor comprises a sensor, and preferably a mechamcal
resonator sensor such as a flexural resonator sensor. The
sensor comprises a sensing surface for contacting a fluid. In
preferred embodiments, a flexural resonator sensor (or s~lb­
assembly thereof) comprises a flexural resonator senslllg
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element having a sensing surface for contacting the fluid
being sensed. The sensing surface of a flexural resonator is
adapted for or configured for displacing (or being displaced
by) at least a portion of the fluid being sensed, at least during
sensing operations. Although much of the description is
presented herein in the context of flexural resonator sensors,
various aspects of the invention are not limited to such
sensors. In addition, other sensors (or sensor subassemblies)
can be used in combination with the mechanical resonator
sensor or other types of sensors mentioned above. For
example, temperature sensors and/or pressure sensors can be
employed in combination with the mechanical resonators or
other type of sensors.
A system of the invention can be effective for monitoring
a property of a fluid in a fluidic system. Such a monitoring
system generally comprises a sensor (e.g., a flexural resonator sensor) interfaced with a fluidic system. As interfaced,
the interfaced sensor can comprise a sensing element (e.g.,
a flexural resonator) having a sensing surface adapted for or
configured for contacting the fluid, and being responsive to
changes in one or more properties of a fluid. The interfaced
sensor further comprises a data retrieval circuit in electrical
communication with the sensing element--directly, or via
one or more intermediate circuits (e.g., a signal processing
circuit)~the data retrieval circuit being effective for storing,
displaying or transmitting data (in each case including raw
or processed data. The interfaced sensor can, as an alternative to or in addition to the data retrieval circuit, further
comprise one or more signal processing circuits (e.g., a
signal conditioning circuit such as an amplifying circuit,
etc., and/or a data derivation circuit such as a signal detection circuit or a microprocessor, etc.) for processing (raw or
previously processed) data originating from the sensing
element (e.g., flexural resonator). In general, the interfaced
sensor can be a sensor formed by interfacing a sensor (in its
entirety) with the fluidic system, or alternatively, the interfaced sensor can be a sensor fornled by interfacing one or
more portable sensor subassemblies with one or more previously installed sensors or previously installed sensor subassemblies.
An apparatus of the invention can be useful in connection
with fluidic systems for monitoring a property of a fluid
therein. Generally, the apparatus of the invention comprise
a personally portable sensor such as a mechanical resonator
sensor (e.g., flexural resonator sensor) or a personally portable subassembly thereof. In preferred embodiments, the
sensor or sensor subassembly comprise one or more of the
following, in any of the various permutations/combinations:
a sensing element (e.g, flexural resonator sensing element)
having a sensing surface for contacting a fluid; signal
processing circuitry adapted for or configured for processing
raw data or previously-processed data or retrieved data (e.g.,
previously stored or transmitted data); and/or data retrieval
circuitry for retrieving data (e.g., data storage circuitry, data
display circuitry and/or data transmittal circuitry). In preferred embodiments, the signal processing circuit is in or is
adapted for or configured for receiving an signal (directly or
indirectly) from a flexural resonator sensing element during
a sensing period and processing that received signal. The
processing of the received signal preferably effects a data
output, for example, via the data retrieval circuitry, that can
be useful for cOllll11lmicating a status or condition of the fluid
to a person upon operation of the sensor in cOlmection with
the fluidic system.
The present invention offers significant advantages over
previously-known approaches for monitoring a fluid in a
fluidic system. In particular, the invention offers substantial
flexibility to configure devices and methods that are efficient' effective and affordable for generating data associated
with one or more properties of a fluid, and thereby providing
a more comprehensive dataset from which process control
and/or servicing decisions can be made. This flexibility
allows for applications of the devices and methods of the
invention across diverse industries, including for example,
across industries such as the petroleum, chemical, phannaceutical, healthcare, environmental, military, aerospace,
construction, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, refrigeration, food, and transportation industries. Siguificantly, the
present invention also offers the advantage of for servicing
fluidic systems where such fluidic systems are of a common
type but are very numerous (e.g., air-conditioning fluidic
systems, healthcare systems) and/or are found within a
common service sector but have temporally and/or spatially
diverse fluid characteristics (e.g., transportation vehicle fluidic systems, military platform fluidic systems, etc.).
Other features, objects and advantages of the present
invention will be in part apparent to those skilled in art and
in part pointed out hereinafter. All references cited in the
instant specification are incorporated by reference for all
purposes. Moreover, as the patent and non-patent literature
relating to the subject matter disclosed and/or claimed herein
is substantial, many relevant references are available to a
skilled artisan that will provide further instruction with
respect to such subject matter.
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BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
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FIG. 1 is a schematic representation of the generalmethods, systems and/or apparatus of the invention.
FIGS. 2A through 2C are schematic representations of the
general methods, systems and/or apparatus of the invention
illustrating sensor segmentation, in particular forming an
interfaced sensor from a ported sensor subassembly and an
installed sensor/sensor subassembly.
FIGS. 3A through 3G are schematic representations of the
general methods, systems and/or apparatus of the invention
illustrating interfacing across a barrier defining a portion of
the fluidic system.
FIGS. 4A through 4C are schematic representations of a
ported sensor subassembly comprising signal processing
circuitry and/or data retrieval circuitry.
FIG. SA through SC are schematic representations of a
ported sensor comprising signal processing circuitry and/or
data retrieval circuitry.
FIGS. 6A and 6B are section views of some preferred
apparatus of the invention.
FIGS. 7A through 71 are schematic representations of a
fluidic system (FIG. 7A) and of several configurations for
flexural resonator sensing elements (FIG. 7B through 71).
FIGS. 8A through 8C are a schematic representation of an
equivalent circuit for a sensor comprising a flexural resonator sensing element (FIG. 8A) and of equations relating
thereto (FIG. 8B and FIG. 8C).
FIGS. 9A through 9E are schematic representations of one
preferred approach for circuitry that can be used in connection with embodiments of the invention, at least a portion of
the circuitry being realized in an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC).
FIGS. lOA through lOD are schematic representations of
alternative approaches for realizing circuitry in an ASIC.
FIGS. lIA through lID are schematic representations of
various schema for advantageously using the methods, apparatus and systems of the inventions for generating data
associated with one or more properties of fluids in a plurality
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of fluidic systems, and for warehousing such generated data
(or a selected subset thereof) in one or more common
database (e.g., as a remote data repository).
FIGS. 12 A through 12C are tables listing preferred
application areas (fields of use), fluidic systems and fluids
for which the methods, systems and apparatus of the inventions can be employed.
The invention is described in further detail below with
reference to the figures, in which like items are numbered
the same in the several figures.
form-specifically by interfacing a (first) portable and
ported subassembly 10 (shown as 10' in its disinterfaced
position) and a (second) installed sensor/sensor subassembly, typically comprising a sensing element 50. The second
sensor/subassembly (e.g., comprising sensing element 50)
can be preinstalled within the fluidic system 100, relative to
the time at which the first subassembly 10 is ported to the
fluidic system. Significantly, the segmentation of the interfaced sensor device 80 provides a technical basis which
allows for efficient and economically attractive approach for
monitoring fluids within a fluidic system 100 (e.g., for
process control, quality control and/or servicing needs),
because the first ported subassembly 10 (10') can be intermittently interfaced with installed sensors/sensor subassemblies at numerous locations on the same fluidic system or on
numerous different fluidic systems and in either case, at
numerous various times. Segmentation of the interfaced
sensor 80 into an discretely packaged functional units, at
least one of which is portable/ported, provides an economic
and operational flexibility benefit over componently-fixed
(e.g., "hard-wired/hard-plumbed") installed solutions for
monitoring of numerous fluidic systems. In some cases, it
provides a unique solution for fluidic systems that could not
otherwise be multiplexed using componently-fixed (e.g.,
hard-wired) monitoring systems, including for example a
fluidic system on a fleet of aircraft or a fleet of trucks or a
fleet of cars). The particular segu1entation approach is not
narrowly critical to the invention. Generally, the installed
sensor/sensor subassembly (typically already residing in
physical local association with the fluidic system) comprises
a sensing element 50 (e.g., mechanical resonator such as a
flexural mechanical resonator) having a sensing surface
positioned (meaning already positioned or adapted to be
positionable) for contacting the fluid. The installed sensor/
sensor subassembly may, optionally, also include one or
more additional sensing elements (of the same type--e.g. an
additional flexural resonator, or of a different type-e.g., a
temperature sensing element or pressure sensing element)
and/or one more signal processing circuits (e.g., a signal
conditioning circuit such as an amplifier circuit, and/or e.g.,
a data derivation circuit such as a signal detection circuit)
and/or one or more data retrieval circuits (e.g., a data storage
circuit, a data display circuit, a data transmission circuit) for
storing, displaying or transmitting data originating from the
sensing element, before or after signal processing in a signal
processing circuit. Generally, the ported sensor subassembly
10 (10') comprises one or more data retrieval circuits 30 in
electrical communication with the sensing element 50 (e.g.,
flexural resonator)--either directly or indirectly (e.g., via a
signal processing circuit 20). The data retrieval circuit
comprises circuitry adapted for storing, displaying or transmitting data. The ported subassembly 10 may, additionally
or alternatively, also include one or more signal processing
circuits 20 (e.g .. an amplifier circuit) for processing (e.g.,
amplifying) the (previously processed and/or raw) data
sensed by the sensing element and/or for processing a data
stream from a data retrieval circuit (e.g., a data stream from
a stored memory circuit). Further details and particularly
preferred embodiments of forming the interfaced sensor
from the segmented subassemblies-specifically from the
ported subassembly and the installed subassembly, including
specific apparatus adapted therefore, are described below,
and each of the below-described details are specifically
considered in various combination with this and other generally preferred approaches described herein.
In still a further generally preferred approach of the
general method, with reference to FIG. 3A, the ported sensor
10
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE
INVENTION
The following paragraphs describe certain features and
combinations ofteatures that can be used in connection with
each of the methods, systems and apparatus of the invention,
as generally described above. Also, particular features
described hereinafter can be used in combination with other
described features in each of the various possible combinations and permutations. As such, the invention is not limited
to the specifically described embodiments.
Preferred General Methods
A preferred general method of the invention can be
described, for example, with reference to FIG. 1, in which a
ported sensor 1 or ported sensor subassembly 10 is interfaced with the (first) fluidic system 100 (indicated as "Fluidic System I") at a (first) location lOlA (indicated as
"Location A"). Using the interfaced sensor, the fluid is
sensed during a first sensing period (indicated as "t l ") to
generate data, which is then stored, displayed or transmitted
using the data retrieval circuit of the interfaced sensor. After
the first sensing period, the portable sensor 1 or sensor
subassembly 10 is disinterfaced from the (first) location
lOlA of the (first) fluidic system 100, and ported away
therefrom. Thereafter, the sensor 1 or sensor subassembly 10
can be (re)ported back to the same first fluidic system 100 at
the same location lOlA for sensing the fluid again during a
later in time second sensing period (indicated as "t2,,").
Additionally or alternatively, thereafter the sensor 1 or
sensor subassembly 10 can be (re)ported back to the same
first fluidic system 100, but at a different (second) location
10m (indicated as "Location B") for sensing during a later
in time second sensing period (indicated as "t 2b "). In addition or in the alternative to the aforementioned, thereafter the
sensor 1 or sensor subassembly 10 can be ported to a second
fluidic system 200 (indicated as "Fluidic System II") that is
separate and discrete from the first fludic system 100, and
having a first location 201A (indicated as "Location A") and
optionally having a separate and distinct second location
20m (indicated as "Location B"). The sensing can be
effected at the first location 201A of the second fluidic
system 200 during a second sensing period (indicated as
"t 2c"). Further sensing can thereafter be effected at other
locations during other sensing periods. For example, thereafter, the sensing can be effected at the second location 20m
of the second fluidic system 200 during a third sensing
period (indicated as "t3 "). In like generalized manner, the
sensing can thereafter be effected at one or more locations
301A, 30m of additional fluidic systems 300 (indicated as
"Fluidic System N") during an nth sensing period (indicated
as "t n").
In a further generally preferred approach of the general
method, with reference to FIGS. 2A and 4A, an interfaced
sensor 80 is formed by interfacing at least one ported
subassembly to forn1 the interfaced sensor 80 in segmented
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subassembly 10, or altematively the ported sensor 1 in its
entirety, is interfaced with the (first or second) fluidic system
100 across a physical barrier 110 defining a portion of the
fluidic system 100. The physical barrier 110 can include any
portion of the physical structure which contains the fluid
within the fluidic system. Hence, the barrier 110 can be, for
example, the surface (e.g., wall, bottom) of a container, or
the surface (e.g., peripheral wall) of a conduit. Preferably,
the ported sensor 1 or ported sensor subassembly. 10 is
interfaced across the barrier 110 without compromising the
integrity of the fluidic system 100. The integrity of the
fluidic system is not compromised if the fluidic system
remains substantially intact-without substantial loss of
fluid material and/or without substantial reduction of fluid
pressure during the interfacing step. The amount of lost
material or reduced pressure that would be substantial
depends generally on the system and operational considerations, but is generally not more than about 10%, preferably
not more than about 5%, more preferably not more than
about 2% and most preferably not more than about 1%,
based on total amount or total absolute pressure, respectively. Further details of interfacing the ported sensor or
ported sensor subassembly across the barrier, including
specific apparatus adapted for such interfacing, are
described below, and each of the below-described details are
specifically considered in various combination with this and
other generally preferred approaches described herein.
In another generally preferred approach of the general
method, with reference to FIG. 3A the ported sensor 1 or
ported sensor subassembly 10 is ported and interfaced, for
example as described in any of the aforementioned general
methods. The fluid is sensed using the interfaced sensor 80
and the data generated in the sensing step (i.e., whether
processed data or raw data) is stored, displayed or transmitted using the data retrieval circuit. One or more of the storing
step, the displaying step or the transmitting step comprises
communicating with the data retrieval circuit of the ported
sensor 1 or ported sensor subassembly lOusing a wireless
c0l11l11lmication protocol. As used herein, a wireless communication protocol includes at least one transfer of data
using electromagnetic radiation. The wireless conmmnication can generally be between the data retrieval circuit of the
ported sensor or ported subassembly and an installed sensor/
sensor subassembly comprising a sensing element (e.g., a
mechanical resonator such as a flexural resonator), and
optionally, an installed signal processing circuit (e.g., amplifying circuit) and optionally, an installed (second) data
retrieval circuit. Additionally or altematively, the wireless
communication can generally be between the data retrieval
circuit of the ported sensor or ported subassembly and a
wireless C0l11l111mication receiving circuit at a remote location (e.g., installed in a service truck parked relatively
nearby the fluid-sensing location). Further details of wireless
communication protocols involving the data retrieval circuit
of the ported sensor or ported sensor subassembly, including
specific apparatus adapted for such communication, are
described below, and each of the below-described details are
specifically considered in various combination with this and
other generally preferred approaches described herein.
In yet a further generally preferred approach of the
general method, with reference to FIGS. 4A and 5A, the
ported sensor 1 (1') or ported sensor subassembly 10 (10') is
a hand-held (i.e., personally portable) device. The hand-held
device can comprise a hand-held sensor (in its entirety) or a
hand-held sensor subassembly (e.g., as described above and
below in cOlmection with segmented assemblies) and in
either case, can be ported by a person to the (first or second)
fluidic system at various times as necessary or desired, and
in each case, interfaced and used for sensing the fluid, for
example as described in any of the aforementioned general
methods. Hand-portable sensors or sensor subassemblies
provide substantial advantages, including especially for
remote field operations and/or for centralized service applications on mobile fluidic systems and/or for monitoring or
servicing of complex fluidic systems (having multiple independent fluidic systems) or geometry-constrained (e.g.,
10
densely packed) fluidic systems. In these and other applications, hard-configured multiplexing systems may be inefficient and/or cost-prohibitive. In contradistinction, handheld systems provide the benefits of multiplexing without
creating umlecessary and largely unused or underutilized
15
redundancies in sensing systems or components thereof.
Further details of using hand-held sensors and hand-held
sensor subassemblies in the methods of the present invention, including specific apparatus adapted therefor, are
described below, and each of the below-described details are
20
specifically considered in various combination with this and
other generally preferred approaches described herein.
Each of the aforementioned generally preferred
approaches can be applied independently or in combination
25 with each other, in each of the possible various permutations. Also, each of the aforementioned generally preferred
approaches can be applied in further combination with more
particular aspects, including particular protocols and/or particular apparatus features, as described below.
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Preferred General Systems and Apparatus
The present invention also include devices effective for
monitoring fluids in fluidic systems according to the aforementioned methods. In general, such devices are systems or
apparatus that comprise one or more sensors, and/or that
comprise one or more sensor subassemblies adapted for or
configured for interfacing with one or more other sensors/
sensor subassemblies to form an interfaced sensor that is
operational or that has enhanced operational functionality.
A preferred general system of the invention can comprise
an interfaced sensor in a fluidic system, where the interfaced
sensor comprises a sensing element, and at least one or both
of a data retrieval circuit or a signal processing circuit.
In this respect, with reference to FIG. 2A, in one preferred
general embodiment the interfaced sensor 80 of the fluidic
system 100 can comprise the sensing element 50 (e.g., a
flexural resonator) fixedly attached to the fluidic system 100,
and preferably positioned or positionable such that the
sensing surface of the sensing element 50 can contact the
fluid during operation of the interfaced sensor 80. In this
preferred general embodiment, the interfaced sensor 80 can
further comprise a portable sensor subassembly 10 (shown
as 10' in a removed position) that is removably interfaced
with (the sensing element 50 fixedly attached to) the fluidic
system 100. The portable, removable sensor subassembly 10
comprises a data retrieval circuit adapted for or configured
for electrical conmmnication with the sensing elementdirectly, or indirectly (as noted above )-for storing, displaying or transmitting (raw or processed) data. The interfaced
sensor 80 can alternatively or additionally, further comprise
one or more signal processing circuits for processing the
(raw or previously processed) data. Further details of this
preferred general embodiment, including specific subassemblies thereof and uses thereof are described herein (above
and below), and each of the herein-described details are
specifically considered in combination with this and other
generally described features of the systems and apparatus.
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In another preferred general embodiment, with reference
to FIG. 3A, the interfaced sensor 80 ofthe fluidic system 100
can further comprise a mechanical or electrical coupling 60
adapted or configured such that the sensor 1 (shown in the
removed position) or sensor subassembly 10 (shown as 10'
in a removed position) can be removably engaged with the
fluidic system 100 for operation of the interfaced sensor 80,
but without compromising the integrity of the fluidic system
100 (as discussed above in cOlmection with the method).
Further details of this preferred general embodiment, including specific couplings uses thereof are described herein
(above and below), and each of the herein-described details
are specifically considered in combination with this and
other generally described features of the systems and apparatus.
The invention is also directed to various apparatus for use
(alone or as part of a monitoring system) in monitoring a
property of a fluid in a fluidic system using one or more
flexural resonators.
In one generally preferred embodiment, with reference to
FIGS. 3A and 4A, such an apparatus can comprise a portable
sensor subassembly 10 (10') (e.g., preferably a hand-held
sensor subassembly), that can interface with a flexural
resonator sensing element 50 that is pre-installed in the
fluidic system 100. The hand-held sensor subassembly 10
can comprise a signal processing circuit 20 adapted for
electrical conummication with one or more flexural resonators sensing elements 50, and being adapted for or configured for at least receiving an input signal from the one or
more flexural resonators during a sensing period and processing the received signal to generate data associated with
one or more properties ofthe fluid. Optionally, the hand-held
subassembly 10 can further comprise signal processing
circuitry 20 adapted for and configured for providing a
stimulus to the flexural resonator sensing element 50. The
hand-held subassembly 10 further comprises, a data retrieval
circuit 30 in electrical communication with the signal processing circuit 20, for storing, displaying or transmitting the
generated data. Further details of this preferred general
embodiment, including specific features thereof and uses
thereof are described herein (above and below), and each of
the herein-described details are specifically considered in
combination with this and other generally described features
of the systems and apparatus.
In another generally preferred embodiment, with further
reference to FIGS. 3A, 4A and SA, such an apparatus
comprises a hand-held sensor 1 or hand-held sensor subassembly 10 (10'), in each case adapted for or configured for
being removably coupled with the fluidic system 100. The
hand-held sensor 1 or hand-held sensor subassembly 10'
comprises a flexural resonator sensing element 50 having a
sensing surface adapted for or configured for contacting a
fluid. Preferably, but optionally, the hand-held sensor 1 or
hand-held sensor subassembly 10 of this embodiment further comprises a data retrieval circuit 30 in electrical communication with the flexural resonator, for storing, displaying or transmitting data. Preferably, but optionally, the
hand-held sensor 1 or hand-held sensor subassembly 10 of
this embodiment fi.lrther comprises a signal processing circuit 20 in electrical cOl1llllunication with the flexural resonator, for storing, displaying or transmitting data. Further
details of this preferred general embodiment, including
specific features thereof and uses thereof are described
herein (above and below), and each of the herein-described
details are specifically considered in combination with tIns
and other generally described features of the systems and
apparatus.
In another generally preferred embodiment, with reference to FIGS. 3A and 6A, such an apparatus can comprise
a plug 500 having a body 510 adapted for removable
engagement with the fluidic system 100, e.g, such as a fluid
reservoir of the fluidic system 100, and a flexural resonator
sensing element 50 mOlmted on a first surface 501 of the
plug and having a sensing surface for contacting the fluid in
the fluid reservoir or other portion of the fluidic system 100.
The plug 500 is further adapted for or configured for
electrical conununication (e.g., hard-wired or wireless communication protocols) between the flexural resonator sensing element 50 and one or both of a signal processing circuit
or a data retrieval circuit. Preferably, for example, the plug
500 can comprise one or more conductive paths 520 extending through the plug and providing electrical COl1llllunication
between the flexural resonator sensing element 50 and one
or more contacts 530 on a second surface 502 of the plug,
such that a portable sensor subassembly 10 can be interfaced
with an installed flexural resonator sensing element 50
through the one or more contacts 530. In this aspect, the plug
500 can operate as a mechanical or electrical coupling 60.
The plug 500 can additionally or alternatively further comprise a temperature sensor mounted on or fluidic ally near the
first surface 501 of the plug, and one or more conductive
paths extending through the plug and providing electrical
cOllUllunication between the temperature sensor and one or
more contacts on the second surface of the plug. Further
details of this preferred general embodiment, including
specific features thereof and uses thereof are described
herein (above and below), and each of the herein-described
details are specifically considered in combination with this
and other generally described features of the systems and
apparatus.
In another preferred general embodiment of such an
apparatus for use in monitoring a property of a fluid in a
fluidic system, the apparatus comprises, with reference to
FIGS. 3A and 6B, a structure 600 supporting a fluid filter
610 and adapted for engagement with the fluidic system 100,
and a flexural resonator sensing element 50 mounted on or
integrated with the support structure 600. The support structure 600 is adapted for or configured for providing electrical
comlllunication between the flexural resonator sensing element 50 and a data retrieval circuit (not shown). Preferably,
the apparatus can further comprise one or more conductive
paths 620 providing electrical conununication between the
flexural resonator sensing element 50 and one or more
contacts 630 on an accessible surface of the support structure 600, such that a portable sensor subassembly 10 can be
interfaced with the flexural resonator sensing element 50
through the one or more contacts 630. In this aspect, the
supporting structure 600 can operate as a mechanical and/or
electrical coupling 60. In these preferred embodiments, the
apparatus can further comprise a temperature sensor
mounted on or integrated with the support structure 600, and
one or more conductive paths providing electrical communication between the temperature sensor and one or more
contacts the accessible surface of the support structure 600.
Further details of this preferred general embodiment, including specific features thereof and uses thereof are described
herein (above and below), and each of the herein-described
details are specifically considered in combination with this
and other generally described features of the systems and
apparatus.
Each of the aforementioned generally preferred systems
or apparatus can be applied independently or in combination
with each other, in each of the possible various permutations. Also, each of the aforementioned generally preferred
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approaches can be applied in further combination with more
particular aspects, including particular methodology protocols and/or particular apparatus features, as described above
and/or below.
can also be single-phase or multi-phase mixtures of gases,
liquids and/or solids, including tor example: mixtures of
gasses; mixtures ofliquids (e.g., solutions); two-phase mixtures of a first liquid and a second liquid (e.g., liquid-liquid
emulsion); two-phase mixtures ofliquids and gasses (e.g., a
liquid having gas sparging or bubbling, e.g, a liquid nebulized through a gaseous enviromnent); two-phase mixtures
of liquids and solids (e.g, colloidal solutions; dispersions;
suspensions); two-phase mixtures of solids and gases (e.g.,
fluidized bed systems); and/or three-phase mixtures of gasses, liquids and solids. Particular examples of preferred
fluids are described herein, including in discussion below
regarding preferred applications of the methods and devices
of the invention.
The operating conditions of the fluid in the fluidic system
is not narrowly critical to the invention. Generally, the fluids
within a particular fluidic system and/or fluids in different
fluidic systems can have widely varying process conditions,
such as temperature, pressure flowrate. Generally, the temperature can range from about or below the freezing point of
the fluid to above the vaporization temperature, including
for example to superheated temperatures and/or for supercritical fluids. Particular temperature ranges can be preferred
for particular fluids. Generally, the pressure within a fluidic
system can likewise cover a wide range, including for
example ranging from about vacuum conditions to about
25,000 psig. In preferred applications, the pressure can be
lower, ranging from vacuum conditions to about 15,000
psig, from vacuum conditions to about 10,000 psig, from
vacumn conditions to about 5,000 psig, from vacuum conditions to about 1,000 psig, from vacuum conditions to about
500 psig, or from vacuum conditions to about 100 psig. In
an alternative embodiment, the pressure range in each of the
aforementioned ranges can have lower pressure limit of
about 1 psig or about 10 psig or about 20 psig.
In the methods and systems and apparatus of the invention, the particular property being monitored is not narrowly
critical. In general, the property of interest will depend on
the fluid and the significance of the monitoring with respect
to a particular fluidic system in a particular cOllll1lercial
application. The property being monitored for a particular
fluidic system may also depend to some extent on the type
of sensor. Significantly, some properties of fluids (both
liquids and gasses) are of general importance across a wide
range of conullercial applications. For example, the viscosity of a fluid is of near universal interest for many fluidic
systems. Likewise, the density of a fluid is also of great
general interest for many fluidic systems. It is especially
advantageous to be able to monitor both viscosity and
density of a fluid~based on the same monitoring event (e.g.,
concurrently or simultaneously, using the same sensing
element, on the same fluid sample). Significantly, flexural
resonators such as tuning forks, unimorphs (e.g, disc benders), bimorphs, torsional resonators, etc. have been demonstrated by Matsiev et al. to have the capability of such
concurrent or simultaneous monitoring of both viscosity and
density. See Matsiev, "Application of Flexural Mechanical
Monitoring of Fluidic Systems
In each of the aforementioned generally preferred
approaches and/or embodiments, the fluidic system can be,
with respect to the fluid, an open fluidic system or a closed
fluidic system. An open fluidic system can comprise one or
more fluids and having one or more fluidic surfaces that are
exposed to an open uncontrolled atmosphere. For example,
an open fluidic system can be an open container such as an
open-top tank or an open well of a batch reactor or of a
parallel batch reactor (e.g., microtiter plate). Altematively,
the fluidic system can be a closed fluidic system. A closed
fluidic system can comprise one or more fluids that are
generally bounded by a barrier so that the fluids are constrained. For example, a closed fluidic system can include a
pipeline (e.g., for oil and/or gas transport) or a recirculating
fluidic system, such as an oil system associated with an
engine, or a refrigerant or coolant system associated with
various residential, commercial and/or industrial applications. A closed fluidic system can be in fluid communication
with an open fluidic system. The fluid conununication
between a closed fluidic system and an open fluidic system
can be isolable, for example, using one or more valves. Such
isolation valves can configured for uni -directional fluid flow,
such as for example, a pressure relief valve or a check valve.
In general, the fluidic system (whether open or closed) can
be defined by manufactured (e.g., man-made) boundaries
comprising one or more barriers. The one or more barriers
defining manufactured boundaries barriers can generally be
made from natural or non-natural materials. Also, in general,
the fluidic system (whether open or closed) can be a flow
system such as a continuous flow system or an intermittentflow system, a batch system, or a semi-batch system (sometimes also referred to as a semi-continuous system). In many
instances, fluidic systems that are flow systems are closed
fluidic systems. The fluidic systems, whether fluidic allyopen fluidic systems or fluidically-closed fluidic systems as
described above, can be open systems or closed systems
with respect to heat transfer. Hence, the systems, considered
as a whole or in relevant portion thereof, can be heat
releasing fluidic systems, heat absorbing fluidic systems or
adiabatic systems.
In particular, for example, mechanical resonators such as
flexural resonators can be used in connection with liquids or
gasses having a wide range of fluid properties, such as a
wide range of viscosities, densities and/or dielectric constants (each such property being considered independently
or collectively as to two or more thereof). For example,
liquid fluids can generally have viscosities ranging trom
about 0.1 cP to about 100 000 cP, and/or can have densities
ranging from about 0.0005 g/cc 3 to about 20 g/cc 3 and/or can
have a dielectric constant ranging from about 1 to about 100.
Gaseous fluids can, for example, generally have viscosities
ranging from about 0.001 to about 0.1 cP, and/or can have
densities ranging from about 0.0005 to about 0.1 g/cc 3
and/or can have a dielectric constant ranging from about 1
to about 1.1. The fluids can be ionic fluids or nonionic fluids.
As an example, ionic fluids can have a conductivity ranging
from about 1 (Ohm-cmt 1 to about 1 (GOhm-cmt 1 . The
fluids of the invention can include relatively pure liquid or
gaseous elements (e.g., liquid N2, gaseous 02' gaseous or
liquid H2 ) or relatively pure liquid or gaseous compounds
(e.g., liquid H2 0, gaseous CH4). The fluids of the inventions
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55
Resonators to Simultaneous Measurements of Liquid Density and Viscosity," IEEE Intemational Ultrasonics Sympo60
65
sium, Oct. 17-20, 1999, Lake Tahoe, Nev., which is incorporated by reference herein for all purposes, and see also
cOllll1lonly-owned U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,401,519; 6,393,895;
6,336,353; 6,182,499; 6,494,079 and EP 0943091 Bl, each
of which are incorporated by reference herein for all purposes. Dielectric constant is also a very significant property
of interest for many conullercial applications~particularly
for applications involving ionic liquids. See Id. Other prop-
US 7,272,525 B2
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erties can also be of interest, alternatively to or in addition
to the aforementioned properties. For example, temperature
and/or pressure and/or flow rate are similarly of nearuniversal interest across a wide range of commercial applications. Parallel resistance can also be of interest.
In general, as noted above, the particular sensor of the
methods and systems and apparatus of the present invention
is not limited. Generally, the sensors usefill in cOlmection
with this invention are adapted to monitor one or more
properties of a fluid-that is, to generate data associated
with one or more properties of the fluid. The data association
with a property in this context means data (typically
obtained or collected as a data stream over some time period
such as a sensing period), including both raw data (directly
sensed data) or processed data, can be directly informative
of or related to (e.g., through correlation andlor calibration)
an absolute value of a property and/or a relative value of a
property (e.g., a change in a property value over time). In
many applications, the raw data can be associated to a
property of interest using one or more correlations and/or
using one or more calibrations. Typically such correlations
and/or calibrations can be effected electronically using signal processing circuitry, either with user interaction or
without user interaction (e.g., automatically).
Particular sensors can be selected based on needed or
desired property (or properties) of interest, and on required
specifications as to sensitivity, universality, fluid-compatability, system-compatability, as well as on business considerations such as availability, expense, etc. Because of the
substantial universal nature of viscosity and/or density and/
or dielectric properties for many diverse fluidic systems,
sensors that are suited for monitoring these properties are
preferred. There are many sensors known in the art for
measuring one or more of viscosity, density and/or dielectric. Accordingly, the selection of one or more of such sensor
types is not critical to the invention.
Preferably, the sensor is a mechanical resonator sensor.
The mechanical resonator can include, for example, flexural
resonators, surface acoustic wave resonators, thickness
shear mode resonators and the like. Various types of flexural
resonators can be employed, including for example tuning
forks, cantilevers, bimorphs, unimorphs, membrane resonators, disc benders, torsion resonators, or combinations
thereof. Flexural resonator sensing elements comprising
tuning fork resonators are particularly preferred. The tuning
fork resonator can have two tines (e.g., binary-tined tuning
fork) or more than two tines, such as three tines (e.g., a
trident tuning fork) or four tines (e.g., a quaternary-tined
tuning fork). In some applications, a tuning fork resonator
may be configured (e.g., with respect to geometry and
electrode configuration) for resonating within a single plane.
For some applications, a tuning fork may be may be configured (e.g., with respect to geometry and electrode configuration) for resonating in two or more different planes
relative to each other, such as in two planes perpendicular to
each other.
Such flexural resonator sensors are well known in the art.
See Matsiev, "Application of Flexural Mechanical Resonators to Simultaneous Measurements of Liquid Density and
Viscosity," IEEE International Ultrasonics SymposiUlll, Oct.
17-20, 1999, Lake Tahoe, Nev., which is incorporated by
reference herein for all purposes, and see also commonlyowned U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,401,519; 6,393,895; 6,336,353;
6,182,499; 6,494,079 and EP 0943091 Bl, each of which are
incorporated by reference herein for all purposes. More
recent advances include those described in co-pending applications, such as U.S. Ser. No. 10/452,264 entitled "Machine
Fluid Sensor And Method" filed on Jun. 2, 2003 by Matsiev
et al (co-owned, describing applications involving flexural
resonator technologies in machines, such as transportation
vehicles); U.S. Ser. No. 60/505,943 entitled "EnviroUlllental
Control System Fluid Sensing System and Method" filed on
Sep. 25, 2003 by Matsiev et a!. and related PCT Application
No. PCT/US03/32983 entitled "EnviroUlllental Control System Fluid Sensing System and Method" filed on Oct. 17,
2003 by Matsiev et al (each co-owned, describing applications involving flexural resonator technologies in heating,
ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration systems and in
machines such as engine systems related thereto); U.S. Appl.
No. 200210178805 Al (describing applications involving
flexural resonator technologies in down-hole oil well applications such as well-logging systems); U.S. Ser. No. 10/804,
446 entitled "Mechanical Resonator" filed on Mar. 19,2004
by Kolosov et a!. (co-owned, describing various advantageous materials and coatings for flexural resonator sensing
elements); U.S. Ser. No. 10/804,379 entitled "Resonator
Sensor Assembly" filed on Mar. 19,2004 by Kolosov et aL
and PCT Application. No. PCTlUS04/08552 entitled "Resonator Sensor Assembly" filed on Mar. 19,2004 by Kolosov
et a!. (each co-owned, describing various advantageous
packaging approaches for applying flexural resonator technologies); and U.S. Ser. No. 10/394,543 entitled "Application Specific Integrated Circuitry For Controlling Analysis
For a Fluid" filed on Mar. 21, 2003 by Kolosov et aI., and
PCT Application. No. PCT/US04/008555 entitled "Application Specific Integrated Circuitry For Controlling Analysis
For a Fluid" filed on Mar. 19,2004 by Kolosov et a!. (each
co-owned, describing electronics technologies involving
application-specific integrated circuit for operating flexural
resonator sensing elements), each of which are incorporated
herein by reference for all purposes, and each of which
includes descriptions of preferred embodiments for flexural
resonator sensors and use thereof in connection with the
methods and apparatus and systems ofthe present invention.
Further details regarding flexural resonator sensors and/or
flexural resonator sensing element are described below, but
are generally applicable to each approach and/or embodiment of the inventions disclosed herein.
Although much of the description is presented herein in
the context of flexural resonator sensors, various aspects of
the invention are not limited to such sensors.
Hence, other types of sensors (or sensor subassemblies)
can also be used in place of mechanical resonators.
In addition, other sensors (or sensor subassemblies) can
be used in combination with the mechanical resonator sensor
or other types of sensors mentioned above. Particularly
preferred sensors for use in combination with mechanical
resonators, such as flexural resonators, include temperature
sensors, pressure sensors, flow sensors, conductivity sensors, thermal conductivity sensors, among others.
The methods and systems and apparatus of the invention
can be used to monitor fluidic systems for various purposes.
The inventions can be advantageously used, for example, to
monitor fluids in any of the following field applications:
materials or process research, materials or process development, materials or process quality assurance (QA), process
monitoring/evaluation, process control, and service applications involving any of the foregoing.
Further details of preferred fluidic systems, fluids, properties, sensors and monitoring, including specific methodology approaches and apparatus features thereof are
described herein (above and below), and each of the hereindescribed details are specifically considered in various com-
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binations and pennutations with the generally described
aspects in this subsection of the specification.
With reference to FIG. 2B, it can be appreciated that a
ported sensor subassembly 10 having a variety of internal
configurations can be interfaced with an already-installed
sensor/sensor subassembly 40 also having a variety of
configurations, to fonn an interfaced sensor (not shown in
FIG. 2B, but indicated in a removed (dis interfaced) form as
80').
In particular, the preinstalled sensor/sensor subassembly
40 can comprise one or more sensing elements 50a, SOb
(e.g., a flexural resonator and a temperature sensing element,
in combination), optionally situated in a sensing element
housing 52 such that a sensing surface of the sensing
elements 50a, SOb can be exposed to the fluid (e.g., via
housing window 54). Optionally the preinstalled sensor!
sensor subassembly 40 can further comprise either or both of
a signal processing circuit 20 (indicated as "SP") or a data
retrieval circuit 30 (indicated as "DR") in electrical communication with the one or more sensing elements, and
preferably in electrical c01lUnunication with each other as
appropriate. The installed sensor/sensor subassembly 40 can
also optionally comprise a coupling 60 providing electrical
or mechanical access across the barrier. The particular
location of the signal processing circuitry 20 and/or data
retrieval circuitry 30 of the installed sensor/sensor-subassembly 40 is not critical. In some embodiments (e.g., in
applications involving high-temperature and/or f1annnable
fluids), it may be advantageous to provide the preinstalled
circuitry 20, 30 external to the fluidic system (e.g., fixedly
monnted on a surface of barrier 110 opposing the fluid-side
surface of the barrier 110), for example as shown in FIG. 2B,
and in electrical cOll1ll1unication with one or more of the
sensors 50a, SOb. In other embodiments the circuitry 20, 30
can be mounted on the fluid-side surface of the barrier 110.
The ported sensor subassembly 10 can likewise comprise
either or both of a signal processing circuit 20 (indicated as
"SP") or a data retrieval circuit 30 (indicated as "DR"). The
ported sensor subassembly is preferably adapted for providing, upon interfacing to the fluidic system, electrical communication with the one or more of sensing elements 50a,
SOb, signal processing circuitry 20, or data retrieval circuitry
30, in each case of the installed sensor/sensor subassembly
40.
Hence, FIG. 2B schematically represents nine combinations of schema for interfacing segmented portions of an
interfaced sensor. Since, as discussed herein (above and
below), the signal processing circuit 20 and the data retrieval
circuit 30 can each include multiple circuits of different
functionality, an even higher number of more specific combinations are represented in FIG. 2B, and all such combinations and permutations are contemplated as being within
the scope of the invention. Notably, in view of the aforedescribed various combinations of which sensor components are included in the preinstalled sensor/sensor subassembly 40, the preinstalled unit can be a preinstalled sensor
that already has operational sensing capability alone (prior
to interfacing of the ported subassembly with the fluidic
system). In tIllS case, the ported sensor subassembly 10 can
provide additional functionality to the preinstalled sensor
40. As one preferred example, the preinstalled sensor 40 can
comprise a sensing element (e.g., a flexural resonator), a
signal processing circuit 20 (e.g., comprising amplifier circuitry), and a data retrieval circuit 30 (e.g. comprising data
memory circuitry, perhaps adapted for recording raw data
received from the sensing element). A ported sensor subassembly can include, in this preferred example, a signal
processing circuit (e.g., for importing the stored raw data
and processing the same ) and/or a data retrieval circuit (e. g.,
Porting
As described above in connection with the generally
preferred approaches, systems, and apparatus (e.g., in connection with FIG. 1), the sensor or a sensor subassembly is
ported to one or more locations on one or more fluidic
systems for interfacing with such systems. Later (e.g., after
sensing), the sensor or sensor subassembly is dis interfaced
and the ported away from that location of the fluidic system,
and typically then ported again (re-ported) to a second
location, a second fluidic system or to the same location, but
at a later time.
The particular manner in which the sensor or sensor
subassembly is ported is not critical to the invention, however. The sensor or sensor subassembly is preferably a
portable sensor or portable sensor subassembly that can be
ported (e.g., carried or otherwise moved) manually (e.g.,
personally-ported as a personally ported/hand-held sensor or
a personally-portedlhand-held sensor subassembly). A handheld unit (i.e., synonymously, a personally-ported unit) can
be carried on a persons body, and can include for exanlple
a unit adapted to be physically held by a person's hand or
otherwise positioned on a person's body (e.g., on a person's
wrist, using for example a wrist-band, on a person's arm,
using for example an ann-band, on a person's waist, using
for example a waist-belt, on a person's shoulder's or back,
using for example a back-pack such as a framed back-pack
assembly, etc.) The sensor or sensor subassembly can also be
ported mechanically (e.g., with the use of a mechanical
implement such as a manually-operated mechanical system)
and/or robotically (e.g., with the use of an automated
robotic-controlled system).
In some embodiments, the sensor or sensor subassembly
can be ported fluidic ally, for example, using hydraulic or
pneumatic porting approaches. In one example, a ported
sensor subassembly could be internal to (i.e., within a fluidic
system) rather than external to (i.e., outside of a fluidic
system)-such as for example in a long (e.g., transnational)
pipeline having installed (fixed) sensing elements at various
locations along the pipeline, and having a ported sensor
subassembly flowing in the fluid within the pipeline, and
generally interfacing with the installed sensing elements via
transmission circuitry both installed locally on the pipeline
and installed within the ported sensor subassembly.
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Interfacing a Ported Sensor Subassembly-Segmented Sensor Functionality
As described above in connection with the generally 50
preferred approaches, systems, and apparatus (e.g., in connection with FIGS. 1, 2A and 3A), the ported sensor
subassembly is interfaced with one or more fluidic systems
to fonn an interfaced sensor. The interfaced sensor is operational for monitoring a property of a fluid within the fluidic 55
system. The fluid property can be monitored in real time, in
near real time, or in time-delayed modes of operation.
With further reference to FIGS. 2A and 4A, in one
approach, the ported sensor subassembly 10 comprises one
or both of a data retrieval circuit or a signal processing 60
circuit, to be interfaced with an already-installed sensor or
sensor subassembly that comprises a sensing element 50.
Alternatively, in another approach (not shown in FIG. 2A or
4A), the ported sensor subassembly comprises a sensing
element to be interfaced with an already-installed sensor 65
subassembly that comprises one or both of a data retrieval
circuit or a signal processing circuit.
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for storing the processed (lata and/or for transmitting the
processed data). In an alternative case, the preinstalled unit
can be a sensor subassembly 40 that obtains operational
sensing capability only upon interfacing of the ported subassembly 10 with the fluidic system 100.
In preferred embodiments involving an interfaced sensor
formed from a segmented sensor subassembly, the fluidic
system can comprise one or more installed sensing elements
50a, 50b (e.g., flexural resonator sensing element), and also
an installed data retrieval circuit 30. The data retrieval
circuit 30 can comprise data display circuitry such as a light
(e.g., an light-emitting diode (LED)) for indicating a status
of a fluid lmder test) or such as a readout (e.g., an LED
readout display) or such as a graphical user interface (e.g.,
computer monitor). The ported sensor subassembly can
comprise a signal processing circuitry 20, such that a sensing
period can be initiated by a person interfacing the ported
signal processing circuitry 20 with the installed sensor/
sensor subassembly 40. The person can then read out some
information locally from the display circuitry. Based on the
read-out information, the person can take some further
action, such as reporting a status, or changing a condition of
the fluid or of the fluidic system. Particular down-stream
processing and/or further actions are also discussed below.
In an alternative preferred embodiment involving an
interfaced sensor formed from a segmented sensor subassembly, the fluidic system can comprise one or more
installed sensing elements 50a, 50b (e.g., flexural resonator
sensing element), and also an installed signal processing
circuit 20. The signal processing circuit 20 can comprise
signal conditioning circuitry and data derivation circuitry.
The ported sensor subassembly can comprise a data display
circuitry such as a light (e.g., an light-emitting diode (LED))
for indicating a status of a fluid under test) or such as a
readout (e.g., an LED readout display) or such as a graphical
user interface (e.g., computer monitor). In operation, a
sensing period can be initiated or can be observed (if an
ongoing, already-in-progress sensing operation) by a person
interfacing the ported data display circuitry with the
installed sensor/sensor subassembly 40. The person can then
read out some information locally from the display circuitry.
Based on the read-out information, the person can take some
further action, such as reporting a status, or changing a
condition of the fluid or of the fluidic system. Particular
down-stream processing and/or further actions are also
discussed below.
In a further alternative preferred embodiment involving
an interfaced sensor formed from a segmented sensor subassembly, the fluidic system can comprise one or more
installed sensing elements 50a, 50b (e.g., flexural resonator
sensing element), and both an installed signal processing
circuit 20, and an installed data retrieval circuitry. For
example, the installed signal processing circuit 20 can
comprise signal conditioning circuitry and data derivation
circuitry. The installed data retrieval circuitry can comprise
a data storage circuit including memory for capturing raw
data stream or a data stream generated by the signal processing circuit (e.g., a conditioned data streanl or a derived
data stream). In this embodiment, the ported sensor subassembly can comprise a further data retrieval circuit, such as
a data display circuitry and/or a data storage circuit. In such
a case, in operation, collected data residing in the installed
memory circuit can be transmitted to and either displayed in
or stored in the ported unit, for later collection and/or
analysis at a remote data repository. For example, the ported
sensor subassembly could be a memory stick Gump drive),
and the data just transferred to a remote data repository via
such memory stick Gump drive). The same or other person
can then read out some information remotely from the
repository. Based on the read-out information, the person
can take some further action, such as reporting a status, or
changing a condition of the fluid or of the fluidic system.
Particular down-stream processing and/or filrther actions are
also discussed below.
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In a particularly preferred embodiment, shown schematically in FIG. 2C, the installed subassembly 40 comprises a
first sensing element 50a that is a flexural resonator (e.g., a
tuning fork resonator) and a second sensing element 50b that
is a temperature sensing element (e.g., an RTD detector or
a thernlistor). The installed subassembly 40 further comprises a set of conductive paths (not shown) providing
electrical communication through the barrier 11 0 via an
electrical coupling 60 to a signal processing circuit 20,
preferably situated on the external side of the barrier 110 of
the fluidic system 100 (e.g., mounted on the external side of
the coupling 60, as shown). The signal processing circuit 20
of this particularly-preferred embodiment includes a signal
conditioning circuit 24 that comprises (or in some embodiments consists essentially of) an amplifier circuit comprising
one or more amplifiers or one or more preamplifiers, effective for or configured for amplifYing one or more input
signals received from one or both of the sensing elements
50a, 50b, including preferably at least an input signal
received from the flexural resonator sensing element 50a.
The ported sensor subassembly 10 of this particularlypreferred embodiment preferably comprises at least a data
retrieval circuit 30, but most preferably comprises both a
signal processing circuit 20 and a data retrieval circuit 30.
In an especially preferred embodiment, the embodiment
described in the innnediately preceding paragraph in connection with FIG. 2C can further comprise, in the installed
subassembly 40, an installed memory media, preferably
such as a signal-processing memory as an accessible portion
of a signal conditioning circuit 24 (not shown) and/or as an
accessible portion of a data derivation circuit 26 (as shown)
and/or as data storage circuit 32 (not shown). In a preferred
approach, for example, the memory media can comprise
electronic data storage media, such as non-volatile memory
(e.g., ROM, PROM, EE-PROM, FLASH memory etc.), and
can typically be pre-loaded with and/or accessible for loading user-defined data (e.g., calibration data, correlation data,
data defining approximated fluid properties) as well as
pre-loaded and/or accessible for loading user defined data
that is system-specific infornlation and/or sensing-element
specific information, in each case such as an identifying
indicia. The ported sensor subassembly 10 of this particularly-preferred embodiment preferably comprises both a
signal processing circuit 20 and a data retrieval circuit 30.
The signal processing circuit 20 can comprise, with further
reference to FIGS. 4B and 4C and the discussion below
relating thereto, an optional signal activation circuit 22, a
signal conditioning circuit 24 and a data derivation circuit
26, wherein the data derivation circuit 26 comprises microprocessor circuitry 26c configured for processing data originating from the one or both of the flexural resonator sensing
element 50a and/or the temperature sensing element 50b in
conjunction with user-defined data (e.g., calibration data)
accessible from the installed memory media. The data
retrieval circuit 30 of the ported sensor subassembly 10 of
this particularly preferred embodiment preferably comprises, with further reference to FIGS. 4B and 4C, at least a
data storage circuit 32 and preferably also either or both of
a data display circuit 34 or a data transmission circuit 36.
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Interfacing Across a barrier
As described above in connection with the generally
preferred approaches, systems, and apparatns (e.g., in connection with FIGS. 1, 2A and 3A), the ported sensor or
ported sensor subassembly can be interfaced with the fludic
system across a barrier that defines at least a portion of the
fluidic system. Preferably, the ported sensor the sensor or
sensor subassembly is interfaced across the barrier without
substantially compromising the integrity of the fluid system.
With further reference to FIGS. 3A through 3D, a ported
sensor subassembly 10 can be interfaced with a fluidic
system 100 across a barrier 110 using a coupling 60. The
coupling 60 can generally be a mechanical coupling, an
electrical coupling and/or a magnetic coupling. In one
approach, the coupling 60 can comprise one or more bodies
62 having a first surface 63 on the internal fluid-side of the
barrier 110, and an opposing second surface 64 on the
external side of the barrier 110. The coupling 60 and/or the
body 62 can be affixed to (e.g., fixedly mounted on, fixedly
attached to) the barrier 110. Alternatively, the coupling 60
and/or the body 62 can be integrally formed with the barrier
110. The coupling 60 and/or the body 62 and/or a component
of the coupling and/or the body can alternatively be removably engaged with the barrier 110. In any case, the coupling
60 and/or the body 62 can comprise one or more components
(e.g. circuit modules) that are installed components of the
fluidic system, and/or one or more components (e.g., circuit
modules) that are components of the ported sensor 1 or
ported sensor subassembly 10 and which are functional as
coupling components when the ported sensor or ported
sensor subassembly are interfaced with the fluidic system.
As shown in FIG. 3B, the coupling 60 can further comprise one one or more conductive paths 66a, 66b (e.g.,
including wired electrical leads ) extending through the body
62 between the first surface 63 and the second surface 64
thereof. The one or more conductive paths 66a, 66b can each
have corresponding end terminals 67a, 67b, 67c, 67d preferably exposed at one or more surfaces 63, 64 of the body
62. The conductive path terminals 67a, 67b, 67c, 67d can be
adapted for electrical connection with another component
such as a sensing element 50 (not shown), signal processing
circuitry (not shown) and/or data retrieval circuitry (not
shown). The terminals 67a, 67b, 67c, 67d can comprise, for
example, contact pins or contact pads.
FIG. 3C shows another example, in which the coupling 60
can comprise a body 62 comprising one or more conmmnication circuitry modules 68a, 68b adapted for transmitting
and/or receiving (e.g., transceiving) electromagnetic radiation (e.g., microwave, infrared, radio-frequency (RF), optical, etc.) and/or for transmitting and/or receiving magnetic
fields through the body 62 between the first surface 63 and
the second surface 64 thereof. The one or more communication circuitry modules 68a, 68b can optionally each have
corresponding tenninals 69a, 69b preferably exposed at one
or more surfaces 63, 64 of the body 62. The terminals 69a,
69b of the conmmnication circuitry modules 68a, 68b can be
adapted for electrical connection with another component
such as a sensing element 50 (not shown), signal processing
circuitry (not shown) and/or data retrieval circuitry (not
shown). The terminals 69a, 69b can comprise, for example,
contact pins or contact pads.
In FIG. 3D, an alternative embodiment is shown where
the coupling 60 comprises an integral region of the barrier
110 of the fluidic system 100, generally indicated as 70, and
optionally defined by one or more markings 71 on barrier
110. For exanlple, the one or more markings 70 could
indicate a region on a first surface 111 on the internal
fluid-side of the barrier 110 (no marking shown), and/or on
an opposing second surface 112 on the external side of the
barrier 110 (shown as marking 71). The coupling 60 of FIG.
3D can further comprise one or more conununication circuitry modules 68a, 68b adapted for transmitting and/or
receiving (e.g., transceiving) electromagnetic radiation (e.g.,
microwave, infrared, radio-frequency (RF), optical, etc.)
and/or for transmitting and/or receiving magnetic fields
through the barrier 110 between the first surface 111 and the
second surface 112 thereof. The one or more connnunication
circuitry modules 68a, 68b can optionally have corresponding terminals 69a, 69b preferably exposed at one or more
surfaces. The terminals 69a, 69b of the communication
circuitry modules 68a, 68b can be adapted for electrical
connection with another component such as a sensing element 50 (not shown), signal processing circuitry (not
shown) and/or data retrieval circuitry (not shown). The
tenninals 69a, 69b can comprise, for example, contact pins
or contact pads.
Referring again to FIG. 3A, and with further reference to
FIGS. 3E through 3G, a ported sensor 1 or ported sensor
subassembly 10, in either case comprising a sensing element
as part of the ported unit, can be interfaced with a fluidic
system 100 across a barrier 110 using a coupling 60. In this
embodiment, the coupling 60 is preferably a mechanical
coupling that allows access for a sensing element 50' (associated with the ported sensor 1) across the barrier 110 of the
fluidic system 100. Since such access can preferably be
effected during operation of the fluidic system, it is advantageously appreciated that the access should be effected
without compromising the integrity of the fluidic system
operations. In general, this can be accomplished, for
example, with a coupling 60 comprising one or more bodies
62 having a first surface 63 on the internal fluid-side of the
barrier 11 0, and an opposing second surface 64 on the
external side of the barrier 11 O. The coupling 60 and/or the
body 62 can be affixed to (e.g., fixedly mounted on, fixedly
attached to) the barrier 110. Alternatively, the coupling 60
and/or the body 62 can be integrally formed with the barrier
110. The coupling 60 and/or the body 62 and/or a component
of the coupling and/or the body can alternatively be removably engaged with the barrier 110. In any case, the coupling
60 and/or the body 62 can comprise one or more components
(e.g. circuit modules) that are installed components of the
fluidic system, and/or one or more components (e.g., circuit
modules) that are components of the ported sensor 1 and
which are functional as coupling components when the
ported sensor is interfaced with the fluidic system.
With reference to FIG. 3E, the body 62 can further
comprise one or more passages 65 generally extending
between the first surface 63 and the second surface 64 ofthe
body 62. The passage 65 can be a straight passage such as
a through-bore, or can comprise one or more turns. In the
embodiment shown, at least a portion of the passage 65 can
be sized to acconunodate through-transit of a sensing element (e.g., flexural resonator) of a ported sensor 1. The
coupling 60 and/or the body 62 can further comprise one or
more valves, such as a sliding gate valve 72 (shown in an
"open" position), for selectively isolating the fluid in the
fluidic system 100 from the passage by operation of the one
or more valves. The depicted gate valve 72 can be received
in seat 73 when in a "closed" position, such that the gate
valve 72 would sealingly isolate the passage 65 from the
fluid. The coupling 60 and/or the body 62 can further be
adapted for receiving at least a portion of the ported sensor
1 (or ported sensor subassembly 10) in sealing engagement
with the body. For example, as shown the passage 65 is
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configured to receive probe portion 3 of the ported sensor 1.
One or more seals 74a, 74b (e.g., o-ring seals) can be used
to fluidic ally seal the ported sensor 1 (or ported sensor
subassembly 10) with the coupling 60 and/or body 62, upon
engagement of the ported sensor 1 with the body. As shown,
seal 74a can be situated in the passage 65 such that it
sealingly engages with a periphery of probe portion 3 of
ported sensor 1. Also, seal 74b can be situated for sealing
engagement between the second surface 64 of the body 62
and an end surface 4 of the ported sensor 1. In operation, the
ported sensor 1 (or ported sensor subassembly) can be
interfaced with the fluidic system by inserting the probe
portion 3 thereof into passage 65 of the body 62 while the
gate valve 72 is in the closed position, engaged against seat
73, such that the ported sensor 1 (or ported sensor subassembly 10) is sealingly engaged with the body 62 by seals
74a, 74b. The gate valve 74 can then be opened, such that
the sensing surface of sensing element 50 can contact the
fluid for sensing. After the sensing period, the gate valve 74
can be reclosed, and the ported sensor 1 (or ported sensor
subassembly) can be withdrawn. In this manner, the ported
sensor or ported sensor subassembly is interfaced with the
fluidic system across the barrier, even during operation of
the fluidic system, without compromising the integrity of the
fluidic system.
Referring now to FIGS. 3F and 3G, in alternative embodiments, the body 62 can further comprise a sensing chamber
75 (FIG. 3F, FIG. 3G)/sample chamber 75 (FIG. 3G) within
the body 62. The sensing/sample chamber 75 can be openended (as shown) at least until a ported sensor or ported
sensor subassembly is interfaced with the fluidic system.
One or more passages 76a, 76b can provide fluid connnunication between the sensing/sample chamber 75 and the
fluid of the fluidic system 100. Isolation valves 78a, 78b
associated with the passages 76a, 76b can selectively isolate
the sensing/sample chamber 75 from the fluid in the fluidic
system 100. In FIG. 3F, a single passage 76a and associated
valve 78a are shown. In FIG. 3G, two passages 76a.b, and
associated valves 78a, 78b are depicted. The passages 76a,
76b can be straight such as a through-bore, or can comprise
one or more turns. The coupling 60 and/or the body 62 can
further be adapted for receiving at least a portion of the
ported sensor 1 (or ported sensor subassembly 10) in sealing
engagement with the body. For example, as shown the body
62 is configured to receive probe portion 3 of the ported
sensor 1. One or more seals 74a (e.g., o-ring seal) can be
used to f1uidically seal the ported sensor 1 (or ported sensor
subassembly 10) with the coupling body 62, upon engagement of the ported sensor 1 with the body, via sealing
engagement between the second surface 64 of the body 62
and an end surface 4 ofthe ported sensor 1. The embodiment
shown in FIG. 3G includes or more additional passages,
such as a sampling passage 77 that provides fluid C0111111Unication between the sensing/sample chamber 75 and an
external sample port 79. An isolation valves 78c can be used
to isolate the sensing/sample chamber 75 from the sample
port 79. Significantly, the sampling passage 77 allows for
withdrawing a sample from the fluidic system that corresponds to the fluid being sensed substantially concurrently
therewith. In operation, the ported sensor 1 (or ported sensor
subassembly) can be interfaced with the fluidic system by
inserting the probe portion 3 thereof into sensing/sampling
chamber 75 of the body 62 while the isolation valves 78a,
78b are in the shut position, such that the ported sensor 1 (or
ported sensor subassembly 10) is sealingly engaged with the
body 62 by seal 74a. The one or more fluid isolation valves
78a, 78b can then be opened, such that the sensing/sampling
chamber fills, and the sensing surface of sensing element 50
can contact the fluid for sensing. Before, during or after
sensing, a portion or all of the fluid within the sensing/
sample chamber can be withdrawn through passage 77 (by
opening isolation valve 78c) to obtain a concurrent sample.
After sampling, the isolation valve 78c can be shut. The
isolation valve(s) 78a, 78b can also be shut (after sensing),
and the ported sensor 1 (or ported sensor subassembly) can
be withdrawn. In this manner, the ported sensor or ported
sensor subassembly is interfaced with the fluidic system
across the barrier, even during operation of the fluidic
system, without compromising the integrity of the fluidic
system.
In any of the embodiments shown in FIGS. 3A through
3G, the ported sensor 1 or the ported sensor subassembly 10
can be positioned to forn1 an interfaced sensor, and can be
held in place as an interfaced sensor during one or more
sensing periods by any appropriate manner. For example, the
ported lUlit could be held in place only by hand (human
applied force) during the sensing period. Alternatively, the
ported nnit can be held in the interfaced position using a
mechanical locking device (e.g., bolts, clamps, etc.). As
another alternative, the ported unit can be magnetically
coupled to the fluidic system to form the interfaced sensor.
In one embodiment, with reference to FIG. 3F, for
example, the initially-ported nnit could comprise a ported
sensor 1 having a sensing element 50 that is interfaced with
the fluidic system 100 through a coupling 62. The coupling
62 and the sensing element 50 can be specially adapted such
that after the initial interfacing, the sensing element is
translated from the ported sensor 1 to become fixedly
attached to the fluidic system. Upon disinterfacing, the
ported-away unit would then be a ported sensor subassembly
10 having an absence of the sensing element. In this hybrid
approach, a sensing element 50 could be periodically
installed into the fluidic system using the ported-to sensor 1,
with intermittent sensing periods using the ported-away
sensor subassembly 10.
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Sensing with Interfaced Sesnor
The interfaced sensor can be advantageously applied to
sense the fluid by collecting data, and typically a data stream
that is fluid dependent, and that can be processed to identifY
and evaluate particular fluid property characteristics.
In any of the aforementioned and/or following-mentioned
approaches and embodiments, the signal processing circuitry can comprise one or more circuit modules for processing data originating from the sensing element (generally,
directly or indirectly). The signal processing circuitry can
comprise each such circuit module alone (i.e., individually)
or in various combinations and permutations. The data being
processed can be raw data (previously unprocessed data)
typically coming either directly from the sensing element or
from a data storage media (i.e., data memory circuitry) that
captured the data directly from the sensing element. Alternatively, the data being processed by one or more circuit
modules of the signal processing circuit can be previously
processed data (e.g., from another module thereof).
Generally, referring now to FIGS. 4Aand 4B and to FIGS.
5A and 5B, the signal processing circuit 20 can comprise one
or more circuits (or circuit modules) for activating a sensing
element and/or for processing data originating with a sensing element, including generally for example: a signal
activation circuit 22 (generally optional. e.g., for providing
an electronic stimulus to the sensing element during active
sensing, as discussed in more detail below); a signal conditioning circuit 24 for processing data originating from the
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sensing element (generally preferred, e.g, for altering an
electronic characteristic of a data signal, typically resulting
in a conditioned data or data stream); and/or a data derivation circuit 26 for processing data originating from the
sensing element (generally preferred, e.g., for identifYing,
selecting or interpreting a particular electronic characteristic
of a data signal, typically resulting in derived data or data
stream that is more closely related to the property (or
properties) of interest (e.g., has higher information content
and/or greater information value) than a raw data stream
and/or a conditioned data or data stream).
In particular, with further reference to FIGS. 4C and 5C,
the signal processing circuit 20 can comprise one or more
circuits (or circuit modules) as signal conditioning circuits
24, such as for example: signal input circuitry 24a (e.g., for
receiving a response signal from the sensing element);
amplifying circuitry 24b (e.g. including pre-amplifiers and
amplifiers, for amplifying a signal); biasing circuitry 24c
(e.g., for offsetting or otherwise changing a reference frame
relating to the signal, including such as for reducing analog
signal offsets in the response signal); converting circuitry
24d (e.g., analog-to-digital (A/D) converting circuitry for
digitizing data or a data stream); microprocessor circuitry
24e (e.g., for microprocessing operations involving data
originating from the sensing element and/or user-defined
data); signal-processing memory 24f (e.g., typically being
accessible to one or more signal processing circuits or circuit
modules for providing data thereto, such as for example
system-specific and/or sensing -element -specific identifying
indicia, user-defined data for signal conditioning, etc.);
and/or signal output circuitry 24g (e.g., for outputting a
conditioned signal to another circuit module (e.g., to a data
derivation circuit and/or to a data retrieval circuit).
Referring again to FIGS. 4C and 5C, the signal processing
circuit 20 can comprise one or more circuits (or circuit
modules) as data derivation circuits 26, such as for example:
signal input circuitry 26a (e.g., for receiving a response
signal from the sensing element or from one or more data
conditioning circuits 24); signal detection circuitry 26b (e.g,
for identifying and/or detecting one or both of phase data
and/or amplitude data and/or frequency data of the response
signal); microprocessor circuitry 26c (e.g., for microprocessing operations involving data originating from the sensing element, typically involving a microprocessor configured for processing one or more software operations such as
software algorithms or firnlware algorithms (e.g., a datafitting algorithm) for determining a parameter of the fluid
that is associated with a property thereof, and/or typically for
processing user-defined data (e.g., predefined data and/or
substantially concurrently-defined data) in conjunction with
the data originating from the sensing element, and/or typically involving user-initiated, user-controllable, and/or userinteractable processing protocols, typically for determining
a parameter using a calibration with a fitting algoritluu, for
determining a parameter using a correlation algorithm, for
determining a change in a detected signal characteristic (e.g.,
frequency, amplitude) or for determining a a determined
paranleter); signal-processing memory 26d (e.g., typically
including electronic data storage media, such as non-volatile
memory (e.g., ROM, PROM, EE-PROM, FLASH memory,
etc.), typically being pre-loaded with and/or being accessible
for loading user-defined data (e.g., calibration data, correlation data, data defining approximated fluid properties,
system-specific infornlation, sensing-element specific information such as an identifying indicia, and/or typically being
accessible to one or more signal processing circuits (or
circuit modules) for use thereof; and/or signal output cir-
cuitry 26e (e.g., for outputting a conditioned signal to
another circuit module (e.g., to a data derivation circuit
and/or to a data retrieval circuit).
Likewise, in any of the aforementioned and/or following
mentioned approaches and embodiments, referring again to
FIGS. 4A and 4B and to FIGS. SA and 5B, the data retrieval
circuitry 30 can comprise one or more modules for retrieving data-whether raw data or processed data. Generally, the
data retrieval circuit 30 can comprise one or more circuits
(or circuit modules), including a data storage circuit 32, a
data display circuitry 34 and/or a data transmission circuitry
36. The data retrieval circuit 30 can be in electrical communication with the sensing element directly, or alternatively, via a signal processing circuit 20 that processes (e.g.,
amplifies, biases, converts, etc.) raw data coming from the
sensing element.
With further reference to FIGS. 4C and 5C, the data
storage circuit 32 can typically comprise: signal input circuitry 32a (e.g., for receiving raw data or a raw data stream
from the sensing element and/or for receiving conditioned
data or a conditioned data stream from one or more data
conditioning circuits 24, and/or for receiving derived data or
a derived data stream from one or more data derivation
circuits 26); a data storage media 32b (e.g., such as nonvolatile memory (e.g., ROM, PROM, EE-PROM, FLASH
memory etc.); and, signal output circuitry 32c (e.g., for
outputting a stored data or stored data stream to another
circuit module (e.g., to a data derivation circuit and/or to a
data transmission circuit and/or to a data display circuit).
Data display circuit 34 as shown in FIGS. 4C and 5C can
confignred to be effective for displaying data associated with
one or more properties of a fluid, or for displaying a status
of the fluid, where such status is based on data associated
with a property of the fluid. Hence, data display circuit 34
can include a display device, and can typically comprise:
signal input circuitry 34a (e.g., for receiving raw data or a
raw data stream from the sensing element, and/or for receiving conditioned data or a conditioned data stream from one
or more signal conditioning circuits 24, alld/or for receiving
derived data or a derived data stream from one or more data
derivation circuits 26, and/or for receiving stored data or
stored data stream from one or more data storage circuits
32); a data-display memory 34b (e.g., such as non-volatile
memory (e.g., ROM, PROM, EE-PROM, FLASH memory,
etc., or random access memory (RAM), in either case
typically for temporarily storing a data or data stream
to-be-displayed); a microprocessor circuit 34c (e.g., for
processing/modifying data, such as stored, to-be-displayed
data); a visual display circuit 34d (e.g., digital computer
monitor or screen; e.g., a status light such as a LED status
light, e.g., a printer, e.g., all allalog meter, e.g., a digital
meter, e.g., a printer, e.g., a data-logging display device, e.g.,
preferably in some embodiments a graphical user interface,
etc.); and, signal output circuitry 34e (e.g., for outputting a
stored data or stored data stream-such as to allother circuit
module (e.g., to a data derivation circuit and/or to a data
trallsmission circuit and/or to a data display circuit).
Data transmission circuit 36 as shown in FIGS. 4C and 5C
can be configured to be effective for transmitting data
originating from the sensing element. Specifically, for
example, the data transmission circuit 36 can include: signal
input circuitry 36a (e.g., for receiving raw data or a raw data
stream from the sensing element, and/or for receiving conditioned data or a conditioned data stream from one or more
data conditioning circuits 24, and/or for receiving derived
data or a derived data stream from one or more data
derivation circuits 26, and/or for receiving stored data or
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stored data stream from one or more data storage circuits
32); an optional microprocessor circuit 36b (e.g., for processing/modifYing data, such as stored, to-be-transmitted
data, and/or for controlling data transmission protocols);
transmission protocol circuitry 36c (e.g., for effecting and
coordinating communication protocols, such as for example
a hard-wired interface circuit (e.g., TCP/IP, 4-20 mA, O-SV,
digital output, etc.), or a wireless communication circuit
involving an electromagnetic radiation (e.g., such as radio
frequency (RF) short range conununication protocols (e.g.,
Bluetooth™, WiFi-IEEE Standard 80211 et seq., radio
modem), land-based packet relay protocols, satellite-based
packet relay protocols, cellular telephone, fiber optic, microwave, ultra-violet and/or infrared protocols), or a wireless
commlmication circuit involving magnetic fields (e.g., magnetic induction circuits); and signal output circuitry 36d
(e.g., for outputting a transmission of stored data or stored
data stream-such as to another circuit module (e.g., to a
data derivation circuit and/or to a data storage circuit and/or
to a data display circuit).
Data transmission is particularly preferred using a data
transmission circuit 36 in cOlmection with a ported sensor
subassembly that comprises a signal-processing memory
and the data transmission circuit. Where the signal-processing memory comprises user-defined data, such data can be
configured to be accessible to the data transmission circuit
for cOllllmmicating the user-defined data from the ported
sensor subassembly to the fluidic system or to a remote data
repository. In another preferred approach, the ported sensor
subassembly can comprise a data transmission circuit for
commlmicating data associated with one or more properties
of the fluid from ported sensor subassembly to the fluidic
system or to a remote data repository. In another method, the
ported sensor subassembly can comprise a data storage
media accessible for storing data associated with one or
more properties of the fluid, and in combination therewith,
a data transmission circuit for communicating stored data
from the data storage media to the fluidic system or to a
remote data repository, in either case preferably using a
wireless communication protocol.
In any event, preferably, generated data is stored (e.g., in
memory), displayed (e.g., in a graphical user interface or
other display device) or (meaning additionally or alternatively) transmitted (e.g., using hard-wired or wireless communications protocols) using the data retrieval circuit of the
interfaced sensor.
Although listed and represented in the figures in a particular (e.g., linear) order, there invention is not limited to
use of such circuit modules in any particular order or
configuration, and a person of ordinary skill in the art can
determine a suitable circuit design for a particular fluidic
system and a particular sensor, in view of the general and
specific teaching provided herein.
Regardless of the particular configuration for the interfaced sensor, the fluid is sensed, actively or passively, using
the interfaced sensor during a first sensing period to generate
data associated with one or more properties of the fluid. In
passive sensing mode of operation, the flexural resonator
sensing element is displaced by the fluid to generate a signal
(e.g., such signal being generated by piezoelectric material
of sensing element, with appropriate electrodes), without
application of an electronic input stimulus to the flexural
resonator. In an active sensing mode of operation, an electronic stimulus (e.g., input signal having a voltage and/or
frequency) is provided to the flexural resonator sensing
element to initiate (via piezoelectric properties) a mechanical response in the sensing element such that at least a
portion of the sensing surface of resonator displaces at least
a portion of the fluid. The mechanical response is fluid
dependent, and the extent of that dependence can be measured electronically, as is known in the art. With further
reference to FIGS. 4B and 4C and to FIGS. 5B and 5C, a
signal activation circuit 22 can comprise, for an active
sensing mode of operation, a signal input circuitry 22a (e.g.,
for receiving a data or a data streanl or instmctions on active
sensing signals) one or more user-defined or user-selectable
signal generators, such as a frequency generator circuitry
22b, and/or such as a voltage spike generator circuitry 22c,
and in each case, e.g., for providing an electronic stimulus
to the sensing element, in an active sensing configuration;
and signal output circuitry 22d.
In a preferred operation involving an active sensing mode,
a stimulus signal (e.g., such as a variable frequency signal or
a spike signal) can be intermittently or continuously generated and provided to the sensing element. A propertyinfluenced signal, such as a frequency response, is retumed
from the sensing element. The retum signal (e.g., frequency
response) can be conditioned and components of the signal
(e.g., frequency response) can be detected. The method can
further includes converting the frequency response to digital
form, such that the digital form is representative of the
frequency response received from the sensing element.
Then, first calibration variables can be fetched from a
memory. As used herein, the term "fetch" should be understood to include any method or technique used for obtaining
data from a memory device. Depending on the particular
type of memory, the addressing will be tailored to allow
access of the particular stored data of interest. The first
calibration variables can define physical characteristics of
the sensor or sensing element. Second calibration variables
can also be fetched from memory. The second calibration
variables define characteristics of the sensor or sensing
element in a known fluid. The digital form is then processed
when the sensing clement is in the fluid under-test, and the
processing uses the fetched first and second calibration
variables to implement a fitting algorithm to produce data
that relates to the fluid properties or fluid characteristics of
the fluid under-test.
In some embodiments involving an active sensing mode
and using a mechanical resonator sensing element (such as
a flexural resonator sensing element), it may be preferably to
employ an active sensing mode of operation involving an
input stimulus signal having a frequency of not more than
about 1 MHz, and preferably not more than about 500 kHz,
and preferably not more than about 200 kHz, and most
preferably not more than about 100 kHz. In some embodiments, even lower frequencies can be employed in the
operation of the mechanical resonator sensing element,
including for example frequencies of not more than about 75
kHz. Specific operational ranges include frequencies ranging from about 1 kHz to about 1 MHz, preferably from about
1 kHz to about 500 kHz, preferably from about 1 kHz to
about 200 kHz, preferably from about 1 kHz to about 100
kHz, preferably from about 1 kHz to about 75 kHz, more
preferably from about 1 kHz to about 50 kHz, more preferably still from about 5 kHz to about 40 kHz, even more
preferably from about 10 kHz to about 30 kHz and most
preferably from about 20 kHz to about 35 kHz. In such
embodiments, it may be preferably to provide an input
stimulus signal that has a frequency that varies over time. In
such embodiments, it may be preferably to provide two or
more cycles of varying a frequency over time over a
predetermined range of frequencies, and preferably over a
frequency range that includes the resonant frequency for the
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flexural resonator sensing element. Such frequency sweeping offers operational advantages that are known in the art.
In a preferred operation involving a passive sensing
mode, the sensing element, preferably a mechanical resonator such as a flexural resonator, interacts with the fluid to
generate a property-influenced signal. The signal from the
sensing element is intennittently or continuously observed
and/or retrieved by the signal processing circuit. The signal
can be conditioned and components of the signal (e.g.,
frequency response, voltage, etc.) can be detected. The
method can further include converting the response to digital
form, such that the digital fonn is representative of the signal
received from the sensor. Then, as above in the active mode,
first and/or second calibration variables can be fetched from
a memory. The first calibration variables can define physical
characteristics of the sensor or sensing element. Second
calibration variables can also be fetched from memory. The
second calibration variables can define characteristics of the
sensor or sensing element in a known fluid. The digital fonn
can then processed when the sensing element is in the fluid
under-test, and the processing uses the fetched first and
second calibration variables to implement a fitting algorithm
to produce data that relates to the fluid properties or fluid
characteristics of the fluid under-test.
In preferred embodiments, one or more circuit modules of
the signal processing circuit and/or the data retrieval circuit
can be implemented and realized as an application specific
integrated circuit (ASIC). See, for exanlple, above-referenced U.S. Ser. No. 10/394,543 entitled "Application Specific Integrated Circuitry For Controlling Analysis For a
Fluid" filed on Mar. 21, 2003 by Kolosov et al., and PCT
Application. No. PCT/US04/008555 entitled "Application
Specific Integrated Circuitry For Controlling Analysis For a
Fluid" filed on Mar. 19,2004 by Kolosov et al. Particularly
preferred circuit configurations are described below, but
should be considered generally applicable to each approach
and embodiment of the inventions described herein.
defined data can generally be pre-defined data or can be
concurrently-defined data, and the defining can be done by
a person and/or by a computer.
The level of specificity of any particular user-defined data
to any particular fluidic system, fluid, sensor or sensor
element will depend on the particular user-application, the
property of interest, the sensor type, the required degree of
accuracy, etc.
In a preferred methods, apparatus and systems, in which
a flexural resonator sensing element is employed alone or in
conjunction with one or more other systems, it is preferable
to have accessible user-defined calibration data that includes
at least (i) flexural resonator sensing element-specific (e.g.,
calibration) data, as well as (ii) application-specific (e.g.,
fluid type) data (e.g, calibration data). It is also preferable to
have specific user-defined identifYing indicia.
In general, there are several approaches for managing a
network of interfaced sensors across multiple fluidic systems, where each sensor/system may require its own specific
signal conditioning data (e.g., offset infonnation) and/or its
own specific user-defined input to a data derivation circuitry
(e.g. calibration data or correlation data or approximate fluid
property values, etc.).
In one approach, discussed for example in connection
with FIG. 2C, each installed sensing element can have a
locally installed signal-processing memory module for storing the required user-defined data. A person porting a ported
sensor subassembly can then initiate a sensing operation (or
retrieve an accumulated or stored data stream) using signal
processing circuitry of the ported sensor subassembly. The
ported signal processing circuitry can cOl1llllUnicate with the
locally-installed signal-processing memory module to get
the user-defined data (e.g. calibration data) specific for
sensing the fluid at that location of that fluidic system using
that particular sensing element.
In an additional or altemative approach, a signal-processing memory module for storing user-defined data for data
derivation can be included within the ported sensor subassembly. In some embodiments, the data can be a standard
data set with a set of varying corrections for particular
sensors or fluids or fluid conditions. Some sort of identifying
indicia is preferably available at the site of the interfaced
sensor for identifying it with particularity. In this instance, a
person porting a ported sensor subassembly can then initiate
a sensing operation (or retrieve an accl1lllulated or stored
data stream) by first interrogating (querying) the identifying
indicia, and then using the read identifYing indicia within the
ported sensor subassembly to obtain the relevant userdefined data set for the fluid at that location of that fluidic
system using that particular sensing element.
Other variations on this approach can likewise be beneficially applied.
User-Defined Data (e.g., Calibration, Identifying Indicia)
Generally relevant to each of the methods, systems and
apparatus of the inventions, user-defined data such as calibration data, correlation data, signal-conditioning data can
be employed as part of a signal processing circuit (e.g.,
signal conditioning and/or data derivation circuitry). Likewise, additionally or altematively, identifYing indicia such
as bar-codes, electronic signatures (e.g., 64-bit serial numbers) can be used to identifY one or more of: particular
fluidic systems, particular locations within a fluidic system;
particular fluid types; particular sensors; and/or particular
sensing elements (including sensing element types (e.g.,
tuning fork flexural resonator), sensing element lot numbers
for a set of co-manufactured sensing elements, and specific
particular individual sensing elements). Such user-defined
identifying indicia can be particularly useful in combination
with user-defined calibration, correlation and/or signal conditioning data since such data can be specific to the fluidic
system, the location, the fluid type; the sensor (type or
individual sensor) and/or the particular sensing elements
(including sensing element types (e.g., tuning fork flexural
resonator), sensing element lot numbers for a set of comanufactured sensing elements, and specific particular individual sensing elements). The user-defined data can be
fluid-property (e.g., temperature dependent), and therefore,
there can be interaction between one or more sensing
elements (e.g., temperature sensing element) and a userdefined data (e.g., calibration data) for a particular fluid in a
particular system using a particular resonator. The user-
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Sensors Having Flexural Resonator Sensing Elements and
Operation Thereof
As seen in FIG. 7A, one embodiment involves the incorporation of a sensor according to the present invention into
a fluidic system 1000, such as an environnlental control
system, that includes one or more unit operation devices
1020,1040,1060 such as a compressor, an expansion valve,
a condenser and an evaporator through which a thennal
change fluid can be cycled via one or more passages, such
as in a conduit. Other components may also be employed as
desired, such as one or more suitable pumps, a filter, a dryer,
a suitable flow cell, or a combination oftwo or more thereof.
Likewise, any of the above components may be omitted
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from a system of the present invention. Suitable valving and
process monitoring instrumentation may also be employed
in the fluidic system 1000.
One or more of the interfaced sensors 1080 according to
the present invention is adapted for pennanent or temporary
placement within in one of the system components or
between one of the system components. For example one or
more sensors 1080 may be situated between various unit
operation devices 1020, 1040, 1060. Likewise, one or more
interfaced sensors may additionally or alteruatively be incorporated in another component, such as a conduit, coil, filter,
nozzle, dryer, pump, valve or other component, or positioned upstream or downstream therefrom. The sensor may
be located in the flow path of the fluid (e.g., in a conduit),
a headspace or both. In a particular embodiment, the sensor
is included along with (and optionally integrated therewith)
a condition monitoring device such as a temperature measurement device, a pressure measurement device, a mass
flow meter, or combinations of two or more of such devices.
Without limitation, an example of a combined pressure and
temperature sensor is discussed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,586,445
(incorporated by reference).
Sensing in accordance with the present invention is particularly attractive for evaluating one or more of properties
of the fluid, such as the level of a fluid (e.g., indicative of a
system leak, a blockage in the system, or the like), the
superheat condition of a fluid (e.g., the level of superheat),
subcooling of a fluid, concentration of a desired component
(e.g., refrigerant) in the fluid, or the presence or absence or
concentration of an undesired component (e.g., contaminants) in the fluid. In particular, the sensor is effectively
employed to monitor (continuously or periodically) small
changes in conditions of the fluid, such as viscosity, density,
viscosity/density product, dielectric constant, conductivity
or combinations of two or more thereof, which are indicative
of a change of one or more of the above-noted properties, or
of a change in state of the fluid or the presence of contaminants' and to output the results thereof.
Optionally, the interfaced sensor, the ported sensor subassembly, or the ported sensor can be in signaling COllllllUnication with a processing unit 1100 (which may include a
user interface) for controlling operation of the fluidic system. The processing unit 1110 may be microprocessor
integrated into the ported sensor, the ported sensor subassembly or the interfaced sensor, for example, as part of the
signal processing circuitry as described above. The processing unit 1100 optionally can optionally also be in signaling
commnnication with a condition monitoring device 1120
(shown as part of an integrated assembly with the interfaced
sensor 1080. Thus, data obtained from the interfaced sensor
1080 may be processed along with other data to assist in
monitoring and establishing operating conditions of the
f1udic system.
Thus, for example, in one aspect of the present embodiment' an interfaced sensor 1080 according to the present
invention is employed to monitor at least one property of a
fluid (e.g., the simultaneous monitoring of viscosity and
density). Data generated from the sensor, along with other
data (e.g., temperature, pressure, flow rate, or combinations
thereof), for example, from the condition monitoring device
1120, can be sent to the processing unit 1100. From the data
provided, the processing unit 1110, which typically will be
progranuned with a suitable algorithm, will process the data.
In a process control embodiment, the processing unit can
effect least one operation of the fluidic system selected from
switching a subsystem of the fluidic system (e.g., a unit
operation device 1020, 1040, 1060) or one or more compo-
nents thereof between an "on" or "off" state, shutting or
opening a valve in the fluidic system, changing a flow rate
of the fluid, changing a pressure of the fluid, changing the
operating speed or condition of one or more components of
the fluidic system, or otherwise controlling operation of the
fluidic system or a component thereof, providing a visual
output signal, providing an audible output signal, or a
combination thereof.
It will be appreciated that the above configuration of FIG.
7A permits the use of one or more modes of active sensing
operations, such as excitation at one or more frequencies
aronnd resonance frequency of the resonator, or the time
decay of oscillation after an electrical or mechanical impulse
(e.g., a voltage spike). Passive operations can include, for
example, observing passive oscillations due to ambient
noise, vibrations, electromagnetic interference, etc.
The monitoring of fluid properties according to the invention may be performed under nonnal operating conditions of
the machine into which the present sensor is placed. The
present invention is particularly advantageous in that it
operable over a broad range of temperatures. Thus, in one
specific aspect, it is contemplated that the monitoring step
occurs at a temperature below -40 C. or possibly the
monitoring step occurs at a temperature above 400 0 C.
Generally the monitoring will occur between these
extremes. It is also possible that during or following monitoring, the response of the sensor is compared against
another value, such as a prior response of the resonator, a
response of another resonator located elsewhere in the
system, a known reference value for the fluid, or a combination of two or more such comparisons. The observed
response may be stored in memory or otherwise recorded. It
may also be possible to have data about a particular fluid
stored in memory of a suitable processor, which can be
retrieved in response to a triggering event, such as inputting
by a technician or reading of a fluid type by an optical
detector, such as a bar code scanner.
As the fluid property changes over time, analysis can be
made and the response compared with those of the fresh
fluid. The identification of a difference between responses
could then be used as a trigger or other output signal for
communicating with diagnostics hardware, which would
provide an audible or visual signal to the operator. It is also
possible that a signal is outputted to a remote telemetry
device, such as one located external of the system. Thus, as
with any of the embodiments herein a "wireless" communications system might be employed, pursuant to which a
signal that is outputted may be a radio frequency signal or
another electromagnetic signal. Comparison against reference values from the original fluid is not the only approach
for generating a comlllunication to a user about the fluid
condition. It may be possible, for example, to pre-program
certain expected values into a device, which then compares
the real-time values obtained. Moreover, it is possible that
no comparisons are made, but rather upon obtaining a
certain threshold response, an output signal is generated for
triggering a user notification, for triggering a system control
unit to alter one or more functions of the system or a
combination thereof. It is also contemplated that a sensor in
a controlled fluid sample may be employed as an internal
reference.
It is also possible that the response obtained irom the
monitoring is stored in a memory, with or without communicating the response to the user. In this manner, a service
technician can later retrieve the data for analysis.
Turning now to FIG. 7B there is shown an illustration of
one preferred resonator element 1140 in accordance with the
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present invention. The resonator element 1140 preferably
includes a base 1160 that has at least two tines 1180 having
tips 1200 that project from the base. The shape of the tines
and their orientation relative to each other on the base may
vary depending upon the particular needs of an application.
For example, in one embodiment, the tines 1180 are generally parallel to each other. In another embodiment the tines
diverge away from each other as the tips are approached. In
yet another embodiment, the tines converge toward each
other. The tines may be generally straight, curved, or a
combination thereof. They may be of constant cross sectional thickness, of varying thickness progressing along the
length of the tine, or a combination thereof.
Resonator sensing element( s) are suitably positioned in an
element holder. Alternatively, the elements (with or without
a holder) may be securably attached to a wall or barrier or
other surface defining one of the fluidic systems or passages
into which it is placed. In yet another embodiment, the
element is suitably suspended within a passage such as by a
wire, screen, or other suitable structure.
Element holders may partially or fully surround the
sensing elements as desired. Suitable protective shields,
baffles, sheath or the like may also be employed, as desired,
for protection of the elements from sudden changes in fluid
flow rate, pressure or velocity, electrical or mechanical
bombardment or the like to help locate an element relative
to a fluid or combinations thereof. It should be appreciated
that resonator elements may be fabricated from suitable
materials or in a suitable mallller such that may be employed
to be re-useable or disposable.
Examples of approaches to materials combinations, or the
packaging of sensing elements that may be employed in
accordance with the present invention are disclosed, without
limitation in cOllllllonly-owned U.S. Provisional Application
Ser. Nos. 60/456,767 and 60/456,517 (both filed Mar. 21,
2003) (and incorporated by reference). Thus, one particular
approach contemplates afilxing a sensing element having a
exposed sensing surface to a platfoTIll, wherein a spaced
relationship is created between the exposed sensing surface
and the platform. A suitable protective layer may be applied
to cover the platfonn andlor the sensing element while
maintaining an exposed sensing surface. The latter exposed
sensing surface may be prepared by the use of a consumable
protective layer (e.g., a polymer, starch, wax, salt or other
dissolvable crystal, low melting point metal, a photoresist,
or another sacrificial material) that is used to block the
exposed sensing surface prior to applying the protective
layer.
A plurality of the same type or different types of resonators of resonators can be used in combination. For example,
a low frequency resonator may be employed with a high
frequency resonator. In this mamler, it may be possible to
obtain a wider range of responses for a given sample.
The size of the sensing elements, especially mechanical
resonator sensing elements such as flexural resonator sensing elements is not critical to the invention. In some applications, however, it should be appreciated that one advantage of the present invention is the ability to fabricate a very
small sensor using the present resonators. For example, one
preferred resonator has its largest dimension smaller than
about 2 cm, and more preferably smaller than about 1 cm.
One resonator has length and width dimensions of about 3
llllll by 8 mm, and possibly as small as about 1 llllll by 2.5
mm. Geometry of the resonator may be varied as desired
also. For example, the aspect ratio of tines of the tuning
forks, or geometrical factors of other resonators can be
optimized in order to achieve better sensitivity to the prop-
erties of the gas phase, liquid phase or its particular components (e.g., a lubricant). For example, the aspect ratio of
a tlllling fork tine may range from about 30: 1 to about 1: 1.
More specifically, it may rangefrom about 15:1 to about 2:1.
It is thus seen that a preferred resonator is configured for
movement of a body through a fluid. Thus, for example, as
seen in FIG. 7B, the resonator may have a base and one or
a plurality of tines projecting from the base. It is preferred
in one aspect that any tine has at least one free tip that is
capable of displacement in a fluid relative to the base. FIG.
7C illustrates a cantilever 1220 having a base 1240 and a
free tip 1260. Other possible structures, seen in FIGS. 7D
and 7E contemplate having a disk 1280, a plate 1300 or the
like that is adapted so that one portion of it is displaceable
relative to one or more variable or fixed locations 1320
(1320'). As seen in FIG. 7F, in yet another embodiment a
resonator 1340 is contemplated in which a shear surface
1360 of the resonator has one or more projections 1380 of
a suitable configuration, in order that the resonator may be
operated in shear while still functioning consistent with the
flexural or torsional resonators of the present invention, by
passing the projections through a fluid.
In still other embodiments, and referring to FIGS. 7G, 7H
and 71, it is contemplated that a resonator 2000 may include
an elongated member 2020 supported on its sides 2040 by a
pair of arms 2060. As shown respectively in FIGS. 7G
through 71, the elongated member may be configured to
oscillate side-to-side, back and forth, in twisting motions or
combinations thereof.
The flexural resonator, such as the embodiment of FIG.
7B, may be constructed as a monolithic device. Yet another
structure of the present invention contemplates the employment of a laminate or other multi-layer body that employs
dissimilar materials in each of at least a first layer and a
second layer, or a laminate comprised of layers of piezoelectric material of different orientations or configurations.
According to this approach, upon subjecting one or more of
the layers to a stimulus such as temperature change, an
electrical signal or other stimulus, one of the materials will
respond different than the other and the differences in
responses will, in turn, result in the flexure of the resonator.
In yet another embodiment, it is contemplated that plural
resonators can be assembled together with an electrode at
least partially sandwiched therebetween. In this mallller, it
may be possible to further protect electrodes from harsh
conditions, while still achieving the desired flexure. One
specific example might include a two or more lithium
niobate or quartz tuning forks joined together with a gold
electrode therebetween. Other configurations (e.g., an
H-shaped resonator) and material combinations may be
employed as well, as disclosed in U.S. Provisional Application Ser. Nos. 60/456,767 and 60/456,517 (both filed Mar.
21, 2003), incorporated by reference.
As can be seen, the selection of the specific resonator
material, structure, or other characteristic will likely vary
depending upon the specific intended application. Nonetheless, it is preferred that for each application, the resonator is
such that one or a combination ofthe following features (and
in one highly preferred embodiment, a combination of all
features) is present: a coating, if placed upon the resonator
in a thickness greater than about 0.1 micron, will not
substantially detract irom resonance perfonnance; the resonator is operable and is operated at a frequency of less than
about I MHz, and more preferably less than about 100 kHz;
the resonator is substantially resistant to contaminants proximate to the sensor surface; the resonator operates to displace
at least a portion of its body through a fluid; or the resonator
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responses are capable of de-convolution for measuring one
or more individual properties of density, viscosity, viscosity/
density product, conductivity or dielectric constant.
The resonator may be uncoated or coated or otherwise
surface treated over some or all of its exterior surface. A
preferred coating is a metal (e.g., a conductive metal similar
to what may be employed for electrodes for the sensor, such
as silver, gold, copper, aluminum or the like), plastic,
ceranlic or composite thereof, in which the coating material
is substantially resistant to degradation from the fluid to
which it is to be exposed or to surface build-up, over a broad
temperature range. For example, one preferred embodiment
contemplates the employment of a base resonator material
and a performance-tuning material. Among the preferred
characteristics of the resonators of the present invention is
the base material is generally thermally stable. For example,
in one preferred embodiment the material exhibits a dielectric constant that is substantially constant over a temperature
range of about 0° e. to about 1000 e., more preferably about
-20 0 C. to about 150 0 C., and stillmore preferably about
-40 0 e. to about 200 0 C. For example, it is contemplated
that a preferred material exhibits stability to a temperature of
at least about 300 C., and more preferably at least about
450 0 C. In another aspect, the dielectric constant of the
performance-tuning material preferably is greater than that
of quartz alone, such as by a factor of 5 or more, more
preferably by a factor of 10 or more and stillmore preferably
by a factor of 20 or more.
FIG. 8A illustrates a circuit diagram 11220 for a tuning
fork equivalent circuit 11222 and a read-out input impedance circuit 11224. The frequency generator is coupled to
the tuning fork equivalent circuit 11222 to a parallel connection of a capacitance Cp as well as a series connection of
a capacitor Cs, a resistor Ro, an inductor Lo, and an
equivalent impedance Z(w). The read-out impedarlce circuit
includes a parallel resistor Rin and a capacitor Cin. The
output voltage is thus represented as Vout.
The equations shown in FIG. 8B can define the equivalent
circuit. In equation (2), the Vout of the equivalent circuit is
defined. In equations (3) and (4), the impedance Zin and Ztf
are derived. Equation (5) illustrates the resulting impedarlce
over frequency Z(w). As can be appreciated, the voltage
Vout, graphed verses the frequency Z( OJ), necessitates the
determination of several variables.
The variables are defined in equation (1) of FIG. 8B. In
operation, the tuning fork's frequency response near the
resonance is used to detennine the variables that will define
the characteristics of the fluid-under-test. The algoritlnll that
will be used to determine the target fluid under-test characteristic parameters will require knowledge of data obtained
during calibration of a tuning fork. In addition to access to
calibration data, the algoritlnn will also utilize a data fitting
process to merge approximated variables of the target fluid
under-test, to the actual variable characteristics (i.e., density,
viscosity, dielectric constant) for the fluid under-test.
In the circuit, it is assumed that Cs ' Ro '
are equivalent
characteristics of a preferred resonator in a vacuum, Cp is the
equivalent parallel capacitance in a particular fluid undertest, p is the fluid density, 11 is fluid viscosity, co is oscillation
frequency. Cp is a flmction of k, as shown in equations (6)
through (10). The constant "k" is, in one embodiment, a
function of the tuning fork's geometry, and in one embodiment, defines the slope of a curve plotting (Cpmeasured,
Cpcal, and Cpvaccum) verses (nneasured, Ecal, and
Evacuum), respectively. In a physical sense, the constant "k"
is a function of the tuning fork's geometry, the geometry of
the tuning fork's electrode geometry, the tuning fork's
packaging (e.g., holder) geometry, the material properties of
the tuning fork, or a combination of any ofthe above factors.
The resulting value of Cp will be used to determine the
dielectric constant E as shown by the equations.
Further, it can be appreciated that that viscosity and
density can be de-convoluted based on the equations defined
in FIG. 8e. For some sensors, the value of Cp measured is
typically on the order of about I to 3 orders of magnitude
greater than the value of Cs ' Accordingly, in order to
improve the ability to measure Z(w), desirably trimming
circuitry is employed as part of or in association with the
signal conditioner, such as a trinuning circuits. In order to
more efficiently process the signal being received from the
tuning fork, the signal 232 is signal conditioned to eliminate
or reduce the signal offset and thus, increase the dynamic
range of the signal produced by the tuning fork. Thus, the
data being analyzed can be more accurately processed.
FIGS. 9A through 9C and lOA through 10C represent one
set of preferred approaches and embodiments for realizing a
signal processing circuitry for a flexural resonator sensor. In
particular, the described approaches and embodiments are
considered in the context of an interfaced sensor applied
with a fluidic system within an engine, and in particular, in
combination with an engine control unit (ECU) , which
directs overall control of multiple aspects of engine operation. This should be understood as being an example demonstrating an application and marmer of realizing the present
inventions, and should not be limiting on the inventions
described herein.
FIG. 9A illustrates a block diagram of the circuit fomled,
for example, in an application specific integrated circuit
(ASIC) 11118 and its components, as an example of a signal
processing circuit. The ASIC 11118 is designed to provide
stimulus to the tuning fork 116 and receive and process data
to provide infonnation regarding the characteristics of a
fluid under-test. In one embodiment, the ASIC will include
a frequency generator 11130 that is configured to provide a
frequency stimulus to the tuning fork 11116 by way of
conununication line 11156. The generated frequency is
preferably a variable frequency input signal, such as a
sinusoidal wave or square wave, that sweeps over a predetermined frequency range. The sweeping range will preferably include the resonance frequency range of the sensor.
Preferably, the frequency is less than 100 kHz, and more
preferably, is in the range of about 5 kHz and about 50 kHz,
and most preferably, is in the range of about 20 kHz to about
35 kHz.
The tuning fork response over the frequency range is then
monitored to determine the physical and electrical properties
of the fluid under-test. The response from the tuning fork
11116 is provided to a signal conditioning circuitry block
11132, by way of a conununication line 11158. In one
preferred embodiment, the tuning fork 11116 will also
include a capacitor 11316, which will be described in greater
detail below. The capacitor 11316 is also coupled to the
signal conditioning circuitry 11132. The signal conditioning
circuitry 11132 is provided to receive the analog form ofthe
signal from the tuning fork 11116 and condition it so that
more efficient signal processing may be performed before
further processing.
The signal conditioning circuitry 11132 will receive the
analog output from the tuning fork 11116, and is designed to
substantially eliminate or reduce signal offsets, thus increasing the dynamic range of the signal that is to be further
processed. In this marmer, further processing carl concentrate on the signal itself as opposed to data associated with
the signal offset.
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Signal detection circuitry (SDC) 11134 is also provided,
and it is coupled to the signal conditioning circuitry 11132.
Signal detection circuitry 11134 will include, in one embodiment a root mean squared (RMS) to DC converter, that is
designed to generate a DC output (i.e., amplitude only) equal
to the RMS value of any input received from the signal
conditioning circuitry 11132. The nlllctional operation of a
RMS-to-DC converter is well known to those skilled in the
art. In another embodiment, the signal detection circuitry
11134 may be provided in the fonn of a synchronous
detector. As is well known, synchronous detectors are
designed to identifY a signal's phase and amplitude when
preprocessing of an analog signal is desired in order to
convert the analog signal into digital fonn. Once the signal
detection circuitry block 11134 processes the signal received
from the signal conditioning circuitry 11132, the signal
detection circuitry 11134 will pass the data to an analog-todigital converter (ADC) 11136. The analog-to-digital converter 11136 will preferably operate at a sanlpling rate of up
to 10 kHz while using a 10-bit resolution. The analog-todigital converter (ADC) can, of course, take on any sampling rate and provide any bit resolution desired so long as
the data received from the signal detection circuitry is
processed into digital fonn.
The ADC 11136 will also receive infonnation from the
temperature sensor 11117 to make adjustments to the conversion from the analog fonn to the digital fonn in view of
the actual temperature in the fluid under-test 11114. In an
alternative embodiment, the temperature sensor 11117 can
be omitted, however, the temperature sensor 11117 will
assist in providing data that will expedite the processing by
the ASIC 11118.
The digital signal provided by the analog-to-digital converter 11136 is then forwarded to a digital processor 11138.
The digital processor 11138 is coupled to memory storage
11140 by way of a data bus 11150 and a logic bus 11152.
Logic bus 11152 is also shown cOlmected to each of the
frequency generator 11130, the signal conditioning circuitry
11132, the signal detection circuitry 11134, and the analogto-digital converter 11136. A digital logic control 11142 is
directly coupled to the logic bus 11152. The digital logic
control 11142 will thus communicate with each of the blocks
of the ASIC 11118 to synchronize when operation should
take place by each one of the blocks. Returning to the digital
processor 11138, the digital processor 11138 will receive the
sensed data from the tuning fork 11116 in digital form, and
then apply an algoritllll to identify characteristics of the
fluid under-test 11114.
The algorithm is designed to quickly identifY variables
that are unknown in the fluid lmder-test. The unknown
variables may include, for example, density, viscosity, the
dielectric constant, and other variables (if needed, and
depending on the fluid). Further, depending on the fluid
under-test 11114 being examined, the memory storage 11140
will have a database of known variables for specific calibrated tuning forks. In one embodiment the memory storage
11140 may also hold variables for approximation of variables associated with particular fluids. In another embodiment, the memory storage 11140 will store serial numbers
(or some type of identifier) to allow particular sets of data to
be associated with particular tuning forks. In such a serial
number configuration, the storage memory can hold unique
data sets for a multitude of unique tuning forks. When a
tuning fork is sold, for example, the purchaser need only
input its assigned serial number into an interface, and the
data set associated for that tuning fork will be used during
operation. From time to time, it may be necessary to upload
additional data sets to the storage memory 11140, as new
tuning forks (with unique serial numbers) are manufactured.
The process for using variable data from prior calibrations
and from fluids that may closely resemble the fluid undertest, will be described in greater detail below. In general,
however, the digital processor 11138 may quickly access the
data from the memory storage 11140, and digitally process
an algorithm that will generate and output variables that
define the fluid under-test 11114.
The digital processor will then conlllunicate through the
digital logic control 11142 and conununication line 11154,
the identified variables that characterize the fluid under-test
11114 to the local machine electronics 11120 (or some
recipient computer, either locally or over a network). In one
embodiment, the local machine electronics 11120 will
include an engine control unit (EeU) 11121, that directly
receives the data from the digital logic control 11142
through signal 11154. The engine control unit 11121 will
then receive that data and, in accordance with its progranuned routines, provide feedback to the local machine
user interface 11122.
For example, the engine control unit 11121, may set a
different threshold for when the fluid under-test 11114 (i.e.,
engine oil), has degraded. For exanlple, different car manufacturers, and therefore, different engine control units for
each car will define a particular viscosity, density and
dielectric constant (or one or a combination thereof) that
may be indicative of a need to change the oil. However, this
progranunable threshold level setting will differ among cars.
Thus, the engine control unit 11121 will provide the local
machine user interface 11122 the appropriate signals
depending on the programming of the particular automobile
or engine in which the engine control unit 11121 is resident.
The ASIC 11118 has been shown to include a number of
component blocks, however, it should be understood that not
all components need be included in the ASIC as will be
discussed below. In this example, the digital processor 11138
may be physically outside of the ASIC 11118, and represented in tenllS of a general processor. If the digital processor 11138 is located outside of the ASIC 11118, the digital
logic control 142 will take the form of glue logic that will be
able to conununicate between the digital processor 11138
that is located outside of the ASIC 11118, and the remaining
components within the ASIC 11118. In the automobile
example, if the processor 11138 is outside of the ASIC, the
processor will still be in communication with the engine
control unit 11121.
FIG. 9B illustrates an example when the digital processor
11138 is outside of the ASIC 11118. In such an embodiment,
the digital processor 11138 may be integrated into a printed
circuit board that is alongside of the ASIC 11118, or on a
separate printed circuit board. In either case, the ASIC 11118
will be in cOllllllunication with the tuning fork 11116 to
provide stimulus and to process the received analog signals
from the tuning fork 11116. The ASIC will therefore convert
the analog signals coming from the tuning fork 11116 and
convert them to a digital form before being passed to the
digital processor 11138.
If the ASIC 11118 is provided on an automobile, and the
digital processor 138 is outside of the ASIC 11118, the
digital processor 11138 will still be able to conununicate
with the engine control unit 11121 of the local machine
electronics 11120. The engine control unit 11121 will therefore cOllnnunicate with the local machine user interface
11122. In this example, the user interface may include a user
display 11122b. The user display 11122b may include analog
and digital indicators 11122d. The analog and digital indi-
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cators 11122d may indicate the qualities of the fluid undertest (e.g., engine oil), and can be displayed in terms of a
gauge reading to indicate to the user when the fluid undertest has degraded or needs to be changed.
In another embodiment, the user display 11122b may
include a digital display 11122c (e.g., monitor) that may
provide a digital output or display of the condition of the
engine oil to the user through an appropriate graphical user
interface (GUI). The user interface 11122 may also include
a user input 11122a. The user input 11112a may be a
electronic interface that would allow a service technician,
for example, to provide updated calibration information for
a tuning fork that is inserted in a particular vehicle, or
provide adjusted approximations for new engine oils that
may just have come onto the market.
By way of the user input Hl22a, a service technician will
be able to input new data to the ASIC 11118 through the
engine control unit 11121. As mentioned above, the ASIC
11118 will include a memory storage 11140 for storing
calibration data, and in some embodiments, storing approximated characteristics for fluids that may undergo sensing by
tuning fork 11116.
FIG. 9C illustrates another detailed block diagram of the
ASIC 11118, in accordance with one embodiment of the
present invention. In this example, the ASIC 11118 shows a
number of blocks that may be integrated into or kept out of,
the ASIC 11118. Blocks that may be kept outside of the
ASIC include blocks 11175. As a high level diagram, the
tuning fork 11116 is connected to an analog I/O 11160. The
analog I/O is representative of blocks 11132, 11134, and
11136, in FIG. 9A above. The analog I/O block 11160
therefore performs signal conditioning and conversion of the
data received from the tuning fork 11116.
Frequency generator 11130, as discussed above, will
provide the variable frequency input signal to the tuning fork
11116 through the analog I/O 160. Glue logic 11162 is
provided to integrate together the various circuit blocks that
will reside on the ASIC 11118. As is well known, glue logic
will include signaling lines, interfacing signals, timing signals, and any other circuitry that is needed to provide inputs
and outputs to and from the chip that defines the ASIC
11118. All such glue logic is standard and is well known in
the art. The ASIC 11118 further includes user defined data
(ROM) 11140'. As mentioned above, the user-defined data
11140' may include calibration data, as well as approximated
variable data for particular fluids that may become fluids
under-test. The user defined data to be stored in tllis memory
can come from any source. For example, the data may be
obtained from a fluid manufacturer, a tuning fork manufacturer, a contractor party, etc. Still further, the data may be
obtained in the form of a data stream, a database or over a
network.
For example, FIGS. 9D and 9E provide exemplary data
that may be stored within the user-defined data 11140'. As
shown in FIG. 9D, a tuning fork 1.1 (designated as such to
emphasize varieties in tuning forks) may provide calibration
variables, as well as approximated fluid characteristics for a
particular type of fluid. In the example of FIG. 9D, the
selected oil type 3 has approximated fluid characteristics for
density, viscosity, and dielectric constant for a particular
temperature, which is depicted in this figure to be 25° C. As
used herein, the term "approximated fluid characteristics"
represent starting point values of fluid characteristics before
the fitting algorithm is started. Thus, the starting point values
are initial values defined from experience, previous tests, or
educated guesses. Consequently, the starting point values, in
one embodiment, approximate the actual fluid characteristic
values of the fluid under-test. In tllis mamler, convergence to
the actual fluid characteristics can be expedited.
In still another embodiment, it may be possible to start
with the approximated fluid characteristics at some set of
fixed values (which can be zero, for example). From each
fixed value, the fitting algorithm can move the value until the
actual fluid characteristic value is ascertained.
Continuing with the example, the approximated fluid
characteristics for the same oil type 3 may have diJl'erent
approximated fluid characteristics due to the rise in temperature to 40° c., in FIG. 9E. The calibration variables will
also be updated to reflect the values for a particular temperature for the tuning fork 1.1. As new oil types become
available to the market, it may be necessary to update the
approximated fluid characteristics for the different temperature ranges so that the user-defined data can be updated in
the ASIC 11118.
Referring back to FIG. 9C, a digital I/O 11140' is provided
to interface with a computer 11123, and a test I/O interface
11164 is provided to enable testing oftheASIC 11118 during
design simulation, during test bench testing, during premarket release, and during field operation. The ASIC 11118
will also include a timer 11172 to provide coherent operation
of the logic blocks contained in ASIC 11118. As mentioned
above, the ROM block 11166, the RAM block 11168, the
CPU core 11170, and the clock 11174, can optionally be
included in the ASIC 11118 or removed and integrated
outside of the ASIC 11118. The ROM 11166 will include
progralllllling instructions for circuit interfaces and functionality of the ASIC 11118, the RAM 11168 will provide the
CPU core 11170 with memory space to read and write data
being processed by the CPU core 11170, and the clock 11174
will provide the ASIC with proper signal aligmnent for the
various signals being processed by the blocks of the ASIC
11118.
FIGS. lOA through 10D depict altemative configurations
for various circuit modules of the ASIC 11118.
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General Schema Re Data Collection for Complex Arrangements
The methods and systems and apparatus of the invention
can be used to monitor fluidic systems for various purposes.
The inventions can be advantageously used, for example, to
monitor fluids in any of a number of field applications, as
discussed previously, and in further detail below. Use of the
methods and systems and apparatus can be also generally
described, for example, with regard to preferred data architecture schema. Such schema are generally applicable to a
variety of specific end-use applications. The following discussion illustrates some preferred schema, and illustrate the
significant advantages that can be realized using the methods
and apparatus of the present invention.
With reference to FIGS. 11A and lIB, for example, a
plurality of ported units (e.g., ported sensors (not shown) or
ported sensor subassemblies shown as lOa, lOb, 10c, ...
10m, labeled as A, B, C, ... m, respectively) can be
interfaced with a plurality of fluidic systems 100, 200,
250, ... 300, labeled as I, II, III, ... N. As shown in these
figures, ported Ullit A can be in the possession of a first
service technician and can be interfaced sequentially in time
(e.g., over a first series of days) with: fluidic system I (e.g ..
on day 1 labeled as Dl), fluidic system II (e.g., on day 2
labeled as D2). Ported unit B can be in the possession of a
second service technician and can also be interfaced sequentially in time (e.g., over a second series of days) with: fluidic
system II (e.g., on day 2 labeled as D2), fluidic system III
(e.g., at a later time on day 2 labeled as D2), and with fluidic
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system N (e.g., on day 3 labeled as D3). Ported nnit C can
be in the possession of a third service technician and can be
interfaced sequentially in time (e.g., over a series of days)
with: fluidic system III (e.g., on day 3 labeled as D3) and
then with fluidic system N (e.g., on day 4 labeled as D4).
Ported unit m can be in the possession of an mth service
technician and can be interfaced sequentially in time (e.g.,
over a series of days) with one or more fluidic systems, such
as shown with fluidic system N (e.g., on day 4 labeled as
D4). In the schema depicted in FIG. lIA, each of the ported
units lOa, lOb, 10e, 10m can comprise a data retrieval circuit
that comprises a data transmission circuit that allows for
efficient regular electrical commnnication of data with a
central connll0n database 700 (e.g., located on a central
server) of an enterprise. This schema may be particularly
advantageous where the fluidic systems I, II, III ... N are
monitored at widely disparate locations across a substantial
geographical distance-where direct local commnnications
between the fluidic systems and a central database would be
impractical. In the schema depicted in FIG. lIB, however,
efficient electrical cOl1ll1nnications may altematively be
regularly effected using a data transmission circ~it insta!led
within each of the fluidic systems I, II, III ... N 111 electncal
commnnication with the central conunon database 700 of
the enterprise. This schema may be advantageous applied
where the fluidic systems I, II, III ... N are situated within
a distance where direct local communications between the
fluidic systems and a central database would be practical.
In either of the aforementioned schema, the central database 700 can act as a remote data repository for the enterprise, for collecting and recording data collected by different
people, on different systems at different times. The central
database 700 can likewise act as a source of data for
downstream data processing (e.g., use in a process control
system, and/or use in tracking trends in fluidic syst~m
operations, and/or use in planning and/or scheduling ma111tenance to a fluidic system, etc.), and/or in research or
development activities. Further downstream processing
activities are discussed herein above, and in greater detail
hereinafter.
Another generally applicable schema, depicted in FIG.
lIC, may be more effective for smaller enterprise operations, such as for small business operators servicing fluidic
systems. One or more ported units (e.g., ported sensors (not
shown) or ported sensor subassemblies shown as a single
unit 10, labeled as A can be sequentially interfaced with a
plurality of fluidic systems 100, 200, 250, ... 300, labeled
as 1, II, III, ... N. As shown in this figure, ported unit A can
be in the possession of a service technician and can be
interfaced sequentially in time with: fluidic system I (e.g., at
time 1 labeled as t1), fluidic system II (e.g., at time 2 labeled
as t2), fluidic system III (e.g., at time 3 labeled as 13), a~d
then at fluidic system N (e.g., at time n labeled as tn). In this
schema, the ported unit 10 can comprise a data retrieval
circuit (e.g., such as a data storage circuit) that allows for
data collection in the field at various times at various fluidic
systems, and allows for later (e.g., same day or later day)
porting of the ported nnit having the collected data back to
a central office. The ported unit 10 can also comprise a data
transmission circuit configured to allow for electrical communication of the collected data with a personal computer
710 acting as a connnon database 700 (e.g., via synchronization protocols, such as can be effected using Palm™
Operating System or similar data transfer protocols). Tl~s
schema may be particularly advantageous for smaller bUSIness enterprises desiring less capital expenditure for infra-
structure, but needing to monitor fluidic systems I, II,
III ... N at disparate locations and at different times.
A further generally applicable schema, depicted in FIG.
lID, may be effectively applied by itself and/or in combination with one or more of the aforementioned schema. FIG.
lID shows a "unit-to-lUlit" data sharing schema, in which a
first ported unit (e.g., a ported sensor (not shown) or a ported
sensor subassemblies shown as lOa, labeled as A) and a
second ported unit (e.g., a ported sensor (not shown) or a
ported sensor subassemblies shown as 1Ob, labeled as B) can
be independently operated (e.g., to monitor different fluidic
systems at different times). Each of the ported units lOa, lOb
can comprise a data retrieval circuit (e.g., such as a data
storage circuit) that allows for data collection in the field at
various times at various fluidic systems, as well as a data
transmission circuit configured to allow for electrical communication of the collected data with another ported unit
lOa, lOb. Advantageously, such unit-to-lUlit data sharing
schema allows for substantial flexibility in field monitoring
operations.
In general in the methods and systems and apparatus of
the inventions, including in cOlmection with the general
schema outlined above, the number of subassemblies m
included within the plurality of ported units (e.g., ported
sensors or ported sensor subassemblies) is not critical, but
can advantageously include four or more, preferably eight or
more, preferably fifteen or more, preferably twenty-five or
more, preferably forty or more, preferably seventy or more,
or preferably one-hundred or more. Likewise, in generaL the
nUl1lber of fluidic systems N included within the plurality of
fluidic systems is not critical, but can advantageously
include four or more, preferably eight or more, preferably
fifteen or more, preferably twenty-five or more, preferably
forty or more, preferably seventy or more, or preferably
one-hundred or more. The munber of ported units can be the
same or different from the number of fluidic systems.
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Downstream Data Processing
The methods and systems and apparatus of the invention
can be used as described herein to monitor fluids in fluidic
systems to generate data associated with one or more
properties of the fluids. The data generated can be used
directly, for example, as described herein for status evaluation, fluid property logging, fluid property tracking, etc.,
among other uses. Such data can also be subsequently
further processed for further subsequent uses (i.e., do~n­
stream) for various purposes. Such downstream processmg
of the data or data stream (represented for example by a
signal or signal stream), typically but not necessarily in
connection with other data from other independent sources,
can be effectively applied to generate higher level infonnation or knowledge based on the directly generated data, for
example for purposes such as one or more of: process
monitoring, process control (e.g., involving automated or
manual control schemes, such as feedback or feed forward
control schemes), fluid maintenance (e.g., fluid replacement
(whole or partial), fluid enhancement (e.g., adding one more
additives or removing one or more contaminants), fluid
operating conditions (e.g., temperature, pressure, f1owrate,
etc.), predictive maintenance, materials or process research,
materials or process development quality control, fluid
analysis, and especially maintenance or service applications
involving any of the foregoing, among others.
Specific End-Use Applications
The methods and systems and apparatus of the invention
can be used to monitor fluidic systems for various purposes.
The inventions can be advantageously used, for example, to
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monitor fluids in any of the field applications and/or fluidic
systems and/or fluid types as shown in FIGS. 12A through
12C.
Particularly preferred applications involve heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC&R) applications. In these applications, the fluidic systems can include
circulating fluids such as circulating refrigerants, circulating
coolants, circulating lubricants and circulating oils. In general, many fluids used in HVAC&R fluidic systems can be
collectively referred to as thennal change fluids-fluids
which have a thermal property change within the fluidic
system, for exanlple, typically within each cycle of a fluidic
system, including for example, changes due to one or more
unit operations (e.g., fluid compression, fluid expansion,
heat transfer, etc.). Hence, a thennal change fluid can
include: refrigerants, coolants, lubricants, oils and mixtures
thereof. For example, coolant being compressed in an
HVAC&R fluidic system can include compressor lubricant
or oil. Also, the engines driving such compressors or other
devise can have their own isolated fluidic systems (e.g.,
circulating oil fluidic system).
Transportation vehicles are also particularly preferred.
Fluidic systems in heavy machinery, such as engines and
compressors are also particularly preferred.
In light of the detailed description of the invention and the
examples presented above, it can be appreciated that the
several objects of the invention are achieved.
The explanations and illustrations presented herein are
intended to acquaint others skilled in the art with the
invention, its principles, and its practical application. Those
skilled in the art may adapt and apply the invention in its
numerous forms, as may be best suited to the requirements
of a particular use. Accordingly, the specific embodiments of
the present invention as set forth are not intended as being
exhaustive or limiting of the invention.
We claim:
1. An apparatus for use in monitoring a property of a fluid
in a fluidic system, the apparatus comprising
a plug adapted for removable engagement with the fluidic
system, and
a flexural resonator mounted on a first surface of the plug
and having a sensing surface for contacting the fluid,
the plug being adapted for electrical connnunication
between the flexural resonator and one or more of a
signal processing circuit, or a data retrieval circuit,
one or more conductive paths extending through the plug
and providing electrical conlll1unication between the
flexural resonator and one or more contacts on a second
surface of the plug, such that a removable sensor
subassembly can be interfaced with the flexural resonator through the one or more contacts, and
a temperature sensor mOlUlted on the frrst snrface of the
plug, and one or more conductive paths extending
through the plug and providing electrical communication between the temperature sensor and one or more
contacts on the second surface of the plug.
2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the removable sensor
subassembly comprises a signal processing circuit in electrical communication with the flexural resonator.
3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the removable sensor
subassembly further comprises a data retrieval circuit in
electrical communication with the signal processing circuit.
4. The apparatus of claim!, wherein the removable sensor
subassembly further comprises a data retrieval circuit in
electrical communication with the flexural resonator.
S. An apparatus for use in monitoring a property of a fluid
in a fluidic system, the apparatus comprising
a structure supporting a fluid filter and adapted for
engagement with the fluidic system, and
a flexural resonator mounted on or integrated with the
support structure and having a sensing surface for
contacting the fluid,
the support structure being adapted for providing electrical communication between the flexural resonator and
a data retrieval circuit,
one or more conductive paths providing electrical communication between the flexural resonator and one or
mare contacts on an accessible surface of the support
structure, such that a removable sensor subassembly
can be interfaced with the flexural resonator through
the one or more contacts
a temperature sensor mounted on or integrated with the
support structure, and the one or more conductive paths
providing electrical COllllllIUlication between the temperature sensor and the one or more contacts the
accessible surface of the support structure.
6. The apparatus of claimS, wherein the removable sensor
subassembly comprises a signal processing circuit in electrical communication with the flexural resonator.
7. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein the removable sensor
subassembly further comprises a data retrieval circuit in
electrical cOllllllunication with the signal processing circuit.
S. The apparatus of claimS, wherein the removable sensor
subassembly further comprises a data retrieval circuit in
electrical cOllUnunication with the flexural resonator.
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