SBIR Phase I: Smart Diagnostic Cleaning/Sensor Balls for Use in Heat-Exchanger Monitoring and Maintenance

Period of Performance: 12/15/2016 - 11/30/2017


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Innovas Technologies LLC
2261 Crosspark Rd. Suite 31
Coralville, IA 52241
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


The broader impact/commercial potential of this project lies in the creation and test of a submersible micro mobile-sensor platform intended to measure fluid flow rates and precise temperatures inside shell-and-tube heat-exchangers. This research will empower follow-on capability for tube health and vibration measurement, creating the potential to save millions per employing facility by preventing unplanned shutdowns, achieving new efficiency gains and enabling mobile fault detection and isolation sensing related to shell-and-tube heat exchange. Economically, shell-and-tube heat exchange fouling and unplanned maintenance has been estimated to cost in excess of 0.5% of the United States? entire Gross Domestic Product?translating to over $80 Billion annually in wasted expense. The long-term goal of this research is to reduce or even eliminate this societal expense in the years to come, providing reduced power costs to consumers, a cleaner environment, and better financial performance for the user. As another key benefit, this research will provide a springboard for other later applications and developments focused on preventing wasteful water leakage in large pipe structures and buildings and will potentially reduce the amount of chemical usage in water-treatment systems. This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project will address problems associated with shell-and-tube heat exchange failure due to wear, vibration and fouling. Shell-and-tube heat exchange is a core element of the United States economy, and fouling-related damage, wear and process shutdowns cost the economy tens of billions annually. This research project aims to establish the feasibility of developing miniature submersible sensors that detect developing failures in heat-exchange systems in advance to entirely prevent the ultimate failures that now occur. The research has the intended result of integrating micro-sensor tools into a small condenser cleaning ball with the initial objectives of sensing in-tube temperature and velocity data, determining the exact tube location of the sensor ball, developing continuous heat-transfer characteristics to better predict efficiency effects, and?importantly?to develop a platform for future integration of sensors that add new sensing capabilities. As envisioned, this work will result in the development/operation of the first ever sub-1-inch-dia submersible sensor ball that can autonomously measure velocity and temperature inside shell-and-tube heat-exchangers along with precise tube location determination of the ball inside the system for accurate, location-specific measurements.