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High-precision sensors: the ideal solution for measuring grain humidity

High-precision sensors: the ideal solution for measuring grain humidity

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Storing and manufacturing food materials like grain can be extremely challenging. Even the slightest bit of extra humidity can create mould growth, causing the grain to deteriorate. This leads to economic losses for manufacturers in the commercial food industry.
Storing and manufacturing food materials like grain can be extremely challenging. Even the slightest bit of extra humidity can create mould growth, causing the grain to deteriorate. This leads to economic losses for manufacturers in the commercial food industry.

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Published by: Milling and Grain (formerly GFMT) on Oct 15, 2013
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11/26/2013

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Digital Re-print -September | October 2013
High-precision sensors: the ideal solution formeasuring grain humidity
Grain & Feed Milling Technology is published six times a year by Perendale Publishers Ltd of the United Kingdom. All data is published in good faith, based on information received, and while every care is taken to prevent inaccuracies,the publishers accept no liability for any errors or omissions or for the consequences of action taken on the basis of information published.©Copyright 2013 Perendale Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any formor by any means without prior permission of the copyright owner. Printed by Perendale Publishers Ltd. ISSN: 1466-3872
 
S
toring and manufacturing foodmaterials like grain can be extreme-ly challenging. Even the slightest bit of extra humidity can create mould growth,causing the grain to deteriorate. This leadsto economic losses for manufacturersin the commercial food industry.
Microwave resonator-based sensors offer a solution to this problem by enabling manu-facturers to obtain a precise measurementof the weight, moisture, or water contentof grain. Moreover, microwave sensors canalso be used to identify foreign particlesor substances that have come into contactwith grain.This article explains the benefits of relyingon microwave frequencies and RF resona- tors to accurately measure the humidity of grain.
Measuring grain humidity
In the food manufacturing business, if grain materials are exposed to too muchhumidity, they can develop mould and would then need to be discarded. This can be pre-vented by controlling the humidity within the
High-precision sensors:
the ideal solution for measuring grain humidity
Figure 1:Microwaveresonator withinner lens tubeFigure 2: Resonance curve for different samples of grainKey for Figure 2:
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Oats
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Triticale
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Barley
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Wheat
by Hinrich Römhild, sensors and measurement senior R&D engineer, WORK Microwave GmbH, Germany
Gain
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fd illinG hnlGy38 | September - ctober 2013
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production facility using microwave frequen-cies and RF resonators.Resonators are high-quality factor (Q fac- tor) structures that resonate at specific fre-quencies. When a sample of the grain mate-rial is inside of the cavity region, it affects thecavity’s centre frequency and Q factor. Thematerial’s electrical permittivity and perme-ability are determined using the frequency shift between the resonant frequency of theunloaded resonator (f Res unloaded) and the loaded resonator (f Res loaded). The Qfactor is calculated based on the frequenciesfrom 3 dB to the magnitude at resonance.Measuring the shift in resonance frequency and Q factor helps to determine two cor-responding physical qualities, such as weightand humidity. In many cases, only one physi-cal measurement is required, necessitating the resonator to only measure the shift inresonance frequency or the Q factor.A typical resonator measurement systemusing the resonant cavity method includesa resonator cavity, signal processing part,and software control by a computer. For  this specific application, the resonator isaluminum-based and has a diameter of about 22 cm and a height of approximately 32 cm (Figure 1).The electrically active part is supple-mented by two flanges on the top and thebottom. They enable integration in a tubesystem and avoid any discharge of electro-magnetic radiation. The aluminum resonator also features a tube made of PEEK. PEEK,or PolyEtherEtherKetone, is a type of plasticapproved for appliance in food technology. Itis extremely resistant to chemicals and offersa heat resistance to 480°F. Thus, a PEEK  tube does not degrade after being exposed to water or steam and is flame- and radia- tion-resistant. Unfilled PEEK received FDAapproval in 1998 and may be used in foodcontact and in processing equipment with-out danger of contamination or degradation.In an aluminum resonator with a PEEK tube, the grain only encounters the PEEK tube,ensuring the materials are not compromised.The plastic tube of the sample resonator hasan inner diameter of 62 mm.For measurement of electrical charac- teristics, the resonator includes two smallantennas. One is used for sending micro-wave signals, the other for receiving. In order  to analyse the data from the antennas, theabsorption of the microwaves on their way from the transmitting antenna to the receiv-ing antenna needs to be contemplated. Thus, the resonator is connected to an evaluationunit. A laptop shows the transmittancemeasured.By applying the microwave transmittanceover the frequency, users can determine amaximum with a frequency of 1050 MHzin an empty test resonator. If the user fillsgrain in the resonator, this maximum willbe shifted to lower frequencies. This makesit possible to distinguish between differentkinds of grain (Figure 2).Making thesame adjustment,it is also possible to distinguishbetween sam-ples of the samegrain with diversehumidity. Figure3 shows the dif-ferences betweenvarious wheatsamples.The curvesreceived areeasily reproduc-ible. The analysisshows that chang-es in humidity are detectable ina one-tenth per-cent range with-out any problems.Examinationof the completeresonator curve isnot feasible in thefield. Therefore, the output of  the sensors hasbeen limited to the transmittanceof one frequency.In this instance,only one valuecorresponds with the humidity of grain. In order todemonstrate themeasurementprocess an adjust-ment was made(Figure 4).Figure 4 showsa tube of acrylicglass with threesamples of grainwith differenthumidity. Thesamples are physi-cally fastened by foam bucklers.The measure-ment reading is the transmittanceon a workingfrequency while the test tube ispushed through the resonator.Figure 5 shows the measurementresult over time.The samples of grain can be dis- tinguished clearly.The minima ariseif the foam is in the active area of  the resonator.
Gain
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fd illinG hnlGySeptember - ctober 2013 | 39
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