The Warsaw Voice » The Polish Science Voice » Monthly - December 13, 2015
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Strength Through Ingenuity
Computed tomography (CT) is a kind of technology that many of us are familiar with, but we mainly know it from medicine where it is used to scan our bodies for disease. Most CT scanners used in medical centers worldwide are large and expensive pieces of hardware. In industry, such scanners are rarely used. This may change now that a group of Polish engineers and scientists have developed a portable CT scanner that makes it possible to monitor products leaving industrial plants to make sure they are free from defects.

The new scanner is the size of a desktop computer and will carry a reasonable price tag, the designers say, unlike traditional CT scanners used in medicine, which are bulky, expensive, and based on harmful X-rays.

“Our device supports the process of quality control in production processes, for example during the production of yogurts, beverages, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals,” says Tomasz Rymarczyk, CEO of Netrix, a company from the eastern city of Lublin whose engineers have built the innovative scanner with the help of scientists from the Warsaw University of Technology in a project called “Electrical Capacitance Tomography for Optimized Production and Quality Control.”

Rymarczyk says the scanner can also be used by petrochemical companies and those transporting natural gas and crude oil. The device could come in handy in the power, aerospace and automotive sectors, he adds, as well as for companies that handle various bulk materials. Factories that need to keep track of carbon dioxide and particulate matter emissions would also benefit from using the scanner, Rymarczyk says.

In another innovative project based on business-science collaboration, a Polish engineering company has built a range of huge, lightweight silos for storing bulk agricultural materials. These silos are very durable even though some of them are made from steel combined with textiles.

Polish agriculture is developing rapidly, in terms of both animal breeding and plant production, and a growing number of producers need storage facilities capable of holding several thousand tons of grain and other bulk materials, says Daniel Janusz, CEO of Feerum, the company that has designed and built the heavy-duty silos—in cooperation with researchers from the Wroc³aw University of Technology as part of a zl.8 million project called “Innovative Lightweight Silos Made from Steel and Steel-and-Textiles.”

Such large silos, which are sometimes the size of a multi-story apartment building, are mainly used on large farms and in food processing plants. They are intended for the storage of bulk materials such as grain and oilseed plants. The innovativeness of this new breed of tanks is based on the fact that they are more resistant mechanically than most other holding tanks, says Janusz.

The designers combined steel with textiles to build the new silos. “This is a completely innovative idea that has great significance for reducing production costs because it reduces the weight of the silo and the power consumption,” Janusz says. “Less steel also means the production process is less labor-intensive. As a result, such a tank can be sold at a more attractive price.”

There are about 100,000 large farms in Poland—ranging from several hundred to several thousand hectares—whose owners are potential buyers of Feerum’s silos. The company also expects to attract many industrial customers who need to store grain for the production of feed for farm animals. Other potential customers include bioethanol production plants, oil mills and companies that buy and store commodities for later sale at a profit, Janusz says.