Mid-infrared sensors: Testing in-progress product quality at critical process control points (CPCP) in the brewing and packaging processes

Technical Session 06: Quality Considerations Session
Robert K O'Leary, VitalSensors Technologies LLC

ABSTRACT: Many in-line or on-line instruments use physical properties of fluids to determine concentrations of desired ingredients. These traditional measurements include temperature, pressure, sound velocity, and density. Mid-infrared is a technique that can directly measure product properties, including sugar, ethanol, and CO2, by looking at molecular absorption. Mid-infrared technology is currently being used at critical process control points (CPCP) in brewing and packaging processes. Current installations include “direct” measurement of sugar in wort, ethanol in low alcohol beer, ethanol in high gravity dilutions, ethanol and CO2 in flavored alcoholic beverages (alcopops), phase transition, and beer in the finishing and release to packaging lines. Mid-infrared’s principal advantages are temperature immunity, process line hydraulic immunity, and no requirement for product flow at the point of measurement. Mid-IR is an instantaneous in-process measurement as opposed to slipstream or membrane based (inferred) measurement. Mid-IR directly measures fermentation parameters, including fermentable sugars, ethanol, and CO2; Mid-IR does not need to convert from physical properties (including density) to determine the concentration of desired measured analytes. This eliminates the need for reoccurring “product dial-in” that other measurement techniques require. The miniaturization of the VS-3000 beer monitor allows for one analyzer to measure product ethanol, CO2, and sugar using one compensation contained within the analyzer. The sensor process interface is sapphire, 316L stainless steel, and virgin PEEK; the sensor is mounted directly in the CIP stream for maximum sterility and sanitization. The solid-state construction and 100,000 hr mean time to failure of the VS-3000 mid-infrared beer monitor decreases maintenance and is the most cost-effective measurement technique.

Robert O’Leary is currently the chief technology officer and a founder of VitalSensors Technologies LLC. He is the inventor of the Mid-Infrared ATR beer monitor. Bob’s background includes 20 years at PerkinElmer, where he designed custom sensors and optical benches for spectroscopy, thermal imaging, and medical devices. He was president and CEO of Optical Coating Corporation, where he developed custom infrared optical filters for nondispersive mid-infrared instruments. Bob lives in Newton, MA, with his wife and three sons.