Nav: Home

Sensor warns when engine oil in CHP plant is no longer up to the job

March 30, 2017

Thanks to a new sensor system developed collaboratively by Professor Andreas Schütze and his research team at Saarland University and a group of industrial project partners, unnecessary oil changes could well be a thing of the past. The new system can provide operators of combined heat and power plants with reliable continuous feedback on the current state of the oil. And the system can also warn the operator if the condition of the oil suddenly deteriorates. The oil flows through a small measuring cell where it is analysed spectroscopically to record the condition of the oil. The method offers numerous benefits: it is better for the environment, it lowers operating costs and it simplifies maintenance scheduling.

The team of engineers will be presenting the system at Hannover Messe at the Saarland Research and Innovation Stand (Hall 2, Stand B46).

For an engine to survive it needs oil. Oil prevents an engine overheating and reduces friction and wear. But as time goes on, the oil deteriorates as it begins to oxidize. Water begins to accumulate in the oil and at some point the additives that help to maintain the oil's lubrication properties have been consumed. To avoid damaging the engine, the oil has to be changed. But when exactly has that point been reached? The problem up until now has been that the oil change point could only be determined precisely by regular laboratory examinations. For safety's sake, the oil in the engines of cars or CHP power plants is therefore changed at regular intervals, but in many of those cases the oil could have been used for longer. However, things now look set to change thanks to a new approach that is being showcased by Professor Andreas Schütze and his team at Hannover Messe.

'In our method we put a small measuring cell into the engine, through which oil flows while the engine is running. As a result, we can continuously monitor the quality of the oil and provide a running forecast of when the next oil change is likely to be due. This enables maintenance work to be scheduled more conveniently and it reliably eliminates the risk of expensive engine damage from a sudden deterioration in the condition of the oil,' explains Schütze.

The measuring cell continuously monitors the chemical composition of the oil. The oil is irradiated with infrared light, and the light that passes through the oil is detected. 'When the chemical make-up of the oil changes, so too does the spectrum of the infrared light that we detect. This enables us to infer the chemical condition of the oil, measure the degree of oxidation and determine whether water has entered the system,' explains Eliseo Pignanelli, a graduate engineer who helped to develop the method. The data from the measuring cell can be fed to the control system or remote monitoring system so that the engineering team can evaluate the data no matter where the plant or equipment is located.

Combined heat and power (CHP) plants generate electricity and heat locally at the site where they are needed and thus offer a way of supplying heat and power independently of the major distribution networks. Small-scale CHP plants find use in industry, schools, hospitals and even private homes. These mini cogeneration plants achieve a high level of efficiency. CHP plants can remove the need to transport energy - a process that never occurs without energy loss -- and any surplus electricity not used by the local consumer can be fed back into the public grid. The regular oil changes that have to be carried out in CHP plants have a negative impact both economically and environmentally. 'In gas-fired CHP plants, the oil is currently changed every 1500 operating hours, no matter whether strictly necessary or not. That is bad for the environment and also puts up plant operating costs -- a situation that can be avoided with our measuring system,' explains Andreas Schütze.

The Saarbrücken sensor system can be installed as a standard component in CHP plants. In addition to being fitted in cogeneration systems, the sensor system can also be installed in industrial plants, wind turbines, machinery or even used in mobile equipment. It is also suitable for monitoring other liquids.
The Saarbrücken engineering team have developed the system in a variety of research projects at Saarland University and at the Centre for Mechatronics and Automation Technology (ZeMA) that were carried out in collaboration with other academic and industrial partners. The work involving oil sensors in CHP plants was conducted in cooperation with EAW, WEGRA and ZILA - companies from Thuringia in eastern central Germany that are specialized in CHP plants, plant construction engineering and sensor systems. The research projects received financial support from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Saarland Ministry of Economics and the European Regional Development Fund.

A press photograph is available at and can be used at no charge.


Prof. Dr. Andreas Schütze:
Tel.: +49 (0)681 302-4663

Dipl.-Ing. Eliseo Pignanelli:
Tel.: +49 (0)681 85787-44

The Saarland Research and Innovation Stand (Hall 2, Stand B46) at Hannover Messe can be reached by calling +49 (0)681 302-68500.


Saarland University, Saarland University of Applied Sciences (htw saar) and industrial partners are working together at ZeMA -- Centre for Mechatronics and Automation Technology in Saarbrücken to strengthen the fields of mechatronic engineering and industrial automation in Saarland and to promote technology transfer. ZeMA is home to a large number of industry-specific development projects as well as projects aimed at transforming research findings into practical industrial applications.

The Saarland Research and Innovation Stand is organized by Saarland University's Contact Centre for Technology Transfer (KWT). KWT is the central point of contact for companies interested in exploring opportunities for cooperation and collaboration with researchers at Saarland University.

Saarland University

Related Infrared Light Articles:

On-demand control of terahertz and infrared waves
A theory from 2006 predicts that it should be possible to use graphene in a magnetic field not only to absorb terahertz and infrared light on demand but also to control the direction of the circular polarisation.
NASA goes infrared on powerful Tropical Cyclone Fani
NASA's Aqua satellite focused an infrared eye on a very powerful Tropical Cyclone Fani as it approached landfall in northeastern India.
NASA examines Tropical Cyclone Kenneth in infrared light
The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder or AIRS instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite passed over Tropical Cyclone Kenneth and analyzed the storm in infrared light.
Breakthrough could enable cheaper infrared cameras
A new breakthrough by scientists with the University of Chicago may one day lead to much more cost-effective infrared cameras -- which in turn could enable infrared cameras for common consumer electronics like phones, as well as sensors to help autonomous cars see their surroundings more accurately.
A new technique allows researchers to focus the action of drugs via infrared light
A scientific team led by the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona manages to efficiently activate molecules located inside cell tissues using two-photon excitation of with infrared light lasers.
More Infrared Light News and Infrared Light Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...