Dynamic Interface Detection and Control Project

Supervisor: Michael Jenkin
Winter 2015

Contrary to most industries, fine chemical manufacturing is dominated by batch production methods. Increasing economic, environmental and safety pressures are motivating a turn towards continuous synthesis. Rather than making products in one big flask, continuous synthesis involves performing chemical reactions by flowing reagents through a tube. Working in this way provides more control over the reaction parameters leading to increases in product quality, and process efficiency and safety. The flow chemistry industry for fine chemical production is a relatively new but burgeoning field with a projected market capacity of billions of dollars by 2018.

Extraction of the reaction mixture for purification and/or further processing is an important step in chemical manufacturing. This is a relatively straightforward operation in batch production, but offers several challenges for flowing processes. In order to facilitate continuous liquid extraction we require a sophisticated control system. This project involves designing, constructing and evaluating a pertinent practical problem in the field.

A key step in the process takes place in a clear tube that is mounted vertically. The tube contains two fluids with a boundary between them. During the process material flows into and out of the tube from the top and the bottom. Chemical reactions take place within this tube and It is essential that the position of the boundary be monitored as its position in the tube is used to control the flow of materials into the tube.

One way of solving this problem is to float a marker at the boundary between the two liquids and to monitor this boundary using a video camera. Although this approach solves the problem, it requires the introduction of a specific float within the tube. Can we build a system that monitors the boundary without resorting to the use of an artificial float?

Specific goals of the project include:

– Develop a computer vision system that can detect and monitor the interface between two miscible fluids of different density.

– Evaluate the performance of the system over a range of different (and typical) fluids

– Explore the use of different illuminant/filter choices to simplify the task for specific fluid combinations.

The successful candidate(s) will have the experience of working with a diverse group of scientists and engineers toward the design and implementation of an automated liquid extraction device with applications across many industries. Upon successful prototyping, you will be able to interact with professionals in high-throughput manufacturing and system integration. Based on project success, you may be invited to join the MACOS(TM) team for implementation and process validation, which may involve opportunities in graduate school. You will have the opportunity to interact with the broad audience of MACOS(TM) technology including governmental regulatory agencies and industrial partners. This project will give you a great opportunity to apply your engineering expertise and gain experience in process implementation and technology transfer.

For further information please contact,

Michael Jenkin ( or Michal Organ (

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