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What haunts a Process Engineer’s Halloween?

Trick-or-treat bowl

What would Halloween be without all the candy?


It’s Halloween – a time when being frightened is fun. Everyone dresses up in costumes, and kids get lots and lots of candy. While getting all that candy is quite the process for kids, it’s an even bigger process – an industrial process – for the companies making the candy. And no matter what kind of candy it is, it probably has sugar in it – at least if it’s good candy.

On that note, here’s a scary thought: the candy manufacturers run out of sugar in one of their storage vessels, and a batch of their candy goes without this sweet, necessary ingredient. In this terrifying hypothetical situation, the manufacturer ran out because the level transmitter taking the level in their storage vessel read as an error.

Radar sensors like the VEGAPULS 69 use 80 GHz technology with a wavelength of 4 mm, but lower frequencies have a much larger wavelength – 12 mm for 26 GHz and 48 mm for 6 GHz. A good rule of thumb for measuring solids: the smallest particle being measured should be no smaller than a quarter the size of your wavelength. This means 80 GHz technology, with a wavelength of 4 mm, can measure something as small as 1 mm.

The 80 GHz VEGAPULS 69 is able to detect each tiny, individual sugar crystal, and this gives the radar beam a flat surface to bounce off of and return to the antennae for an accurate level measurement. Lower frequency radars don’t detect those individual sugar crystals. Instead, the sugar is perceived as a solid sloped surface, which causes the radar beam to scatter in multiple directions, leading to an error level measurement. Fortunately, 80 GHz is able to turn this nightmare scenario into a sweet dream.

Radar level measurement with small crystals

Measuring more than sugar

VEGA ensures this made up scenario is just that – a fabricated, scary story process engineers can tell their children. And it’s all thanks to 80 GHz technology. VEGA is already helping chocolate companies around the world ensure their products are just right every time. They’re using the VEGAPULS 69 to measure level in their bulk solids, like milk powder and lactose tanks. The VEGAPULS 64 is doing the same job for liquids like chocolate cream.

We should all be able to rest a little easier knowing we don’t have to check inside the vessel for any level error measurement monsters before turning out the lights.

Happy Halloween from VEGA!

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