Cleaning on demand saves time, budget and resources

During processing of dairy products or beverages such as beer and juices in closed systems, organic residues accumulate on the walls of vessels and pipelines. Without countermeasures, the systems get fouled over time which results in quality problems. Regular cleaning-in-place (CIP) processes ensure hygienic production conditions and thus maintenance of hygienic standards. Since often there is no reliable information on the amount of deposit present on the inside walls of a vessel or a pipeline, these processes are designed for worst-case contamination scenarios – resulting in excessive use of energy, water, and cleaning agents. Adapting CIP processes to the actual surface coverage of contaminations therefore holds both, economic and ecological advantages for food processing processes.

Fiber-optical sensor for minimally invasive inspection

F-Fiber, a fiber-optical fluorescence sensor developed by Fraunhofer IPM, lends itself to minimally invasive, highly versatile inspection of closed production systems. The fiber-optical sensor probes fouling inside vessels optically using fluorescence excitation and detection of the fouling deposit. The sensor can be either mounted on various types of flanges with the possibility to measure at different locations within the production system or integrated permanently in the vessel, even at places difficult to access. All hardware components are located outside the production system and coupled into the optical fiber. Flush fitting and the choice of material, which is similar to the surrounding stainless-steel walls, guarantee that the sensor does not cause any perturbation of the fluidic system. F-Fiber thus enables cleaning processes to be triggered or adapted to the actual degree of fouling. 

Robust, flexible and suited for a wide range of organic substances

F-Fiber is suitable for detecting a large number of organic substances, in particular substances containing proteins and/ or fat such as e.g. dairy products. Therefore, the sensor can be used in plants that process several different products. In a CIP test station, for example, mustard, soft drinks, apple juice and dairy products were successfully detected. Therefore, the sensor can be used in plants that process several different products. It is robust in terms of optical alignment and maintenance and can be easily integrated into existing systems.