Measurement and Control Engineering Center (MCEC)
Enhanced measurement techniques in process control optimization will improve productivity
The association between the MCEC member companies and the Center is characterized by a high interaction at each level of progress in a Center project:
Research and Development Program
Since the program was initiated in 1985, faculty representing nine academic departments at the University of Tennessee (UT) and Oklahoma State University (OSU) have been involved in research supported by MCEC. In addition, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has been heavily involved in the center's research since its inception. The current research program emphasizes two areas of technology: Analytical Instruments and Process Control; Optimization, and Modeling. Researchers at other universities participate in MCEC, including current participation by East Carolina University and Transylvania University. Research projects have been completed at Vanderbilt University and Purdue University. Numerous collaborative projects have existed with a variety of institutions, including Lehigh University, the University of Washington, and the University of Colorado. Research topics are listed below under the area of specialization. Project co-directors include representatives of ORNL and local industry. The Center's cooperative, interdisciplinary approach ensures that it has the personnel, equipment, financing, and industry-oriented direction necessary to accomplish research leading to significant improvements in measurement and control.
Process Control, Optimization, and Modeling
At UT, the research program is implemented in space assigned to academic departments in numerous campus buildings. In addition, the recently completed Science and Engineering Research Facility (SERF) contains a 900-square foot laboratory reserved exclusively for Center projects. SERF is the largest building on the Knoxville campus and is among the most advanced in the nation.
MCEC research activities at OSU involve several engineering departments and use existing experimental and computing facilities. Some of the MCEC research will be conducted in the Advanced Technology Research Center (ATRC). This new facility houses 30 offices and 30 laboratories and makes state-of-the-art analytical instruments available to MCEC researchers.
Special Center Activities
The Center was also involved in engineering development work for new sensors. An FT-Raman fiber-optic spectrometer was modified to meet the needs of a plant floor environment. The device was brought on-line at a member company, where it provided useful information to plant operators. This device resulted in enough energy savings to cover the cost of the instrument. Improved control had the added benefit of increased plant production.
A variety of software tools have been developed in the Center. Using these tools, one member company worked with MCEC researchers in modeling studies of a distillation column, considering specifically the impact of sensor type and placement. The research identified sources of variation in the process and resulted in a savings of approximately $300,000 to the company.
Currently, the Center is involved in the development of a laboratory instrument for in-situ measurement and characterization of batch reactions with a member company and a small, independent company. This research is being funded separately by NSF through a Small Firms Collaborative Research and Development grant.
Oklahoma State University
Director: Dr. Kelsey D. Cook
MCEC OSU Site Director: Dr. D. Alan Tree
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