Flow and Fluid Contamination Diagnostics


FTL personnel have a long history of fluid monitoring both for DoD and industrial clients, with expertise in flow system design, fluid-dynamic analysis, optical access, and data acquisition. Working for the Navy, Army, and Air Force, FTL has shown in-flow detection and discrimination of sediment, water, and wear particles.

For the OilEye project, FTL designed isokinetic flow cells and custom AI classifier software capable of combining thousands of frames of imagery to extract particle size distribution and other parameters necessary for process monitoring.

FTL uses parallel processing to enable classification of thousands of particles against training sets from tens to hundreds of thousands of test cases in seconds. This allows discrimination of water and sediment particles, as well as identification of biological organisms in fluid flows.

A group of four images that show how fluid flows and how to tell if it is contaminated

Fluid / Fluid Contamination

Contamination of fuel by engine oils is a significant cost to the Air Force when defueling, refueling, and servicing aircraft. One notable difficulty faced by flight line crews is identification and evaluation of fuel condition during these contamination events. FTL’s “FFC” (fluid / fluid contamination) detection system evaluates fuel on-site using UV-Vis-FTIR spectrometry, coupled with a sophisticated machine learning algorithm to quantify extent of contamination.

FTL’s spectroscopic algorithms have proven to be a powerful tool for analyzing known contaminants, but aircraft fuels and fluids have variations of both fuel/fluid base stock and additive formulations that lead to instability of spectral fingerprints. FTL’s FFC overcomes this with advanced spectrum analysis and AI-based classification software that classifies each contaminant’s spectral fingerprint in terms of prior data, becoming more intelligent as it encounters more real-world variation. FFC is portable, automatic, and quantifies hydraulic oil contamination accurately to 100 ppm contaminant by volume.

An image of a pipe, holding jet fuel. The fiber sensors work with important fluids like this to monitor them.

Fiber Sensor

FTL’s Fiber Sensor is an optical, field-capable, free-water detection and quantification instrument to be used initially in commercial and military aviation refueling environments. The instrument is expected to be installed on hydrant servicers, hydrant carts and mobile refueling tankers downstream of the final filter-separator or “Monitor” vessels on these vehicles to provide final, real-time fuel-quality inspection before entering the aircraft.

Images of different types of fiber sensors used to determine aspects and ratio about fluids.
Two images that show how an autogrape works. One image is a sketch and the other is real.


FTL personnel have a long history helping to develop the world’s first optical scattering fuel monitor to be installed aboard Navy aircraft carriers. Built into an 18-inch-long instrumented pipeline spool piece with 2, 4, 6, or 8-inch pipe diameter, the AutoGrape integrates into the data backbone of CVN-68 (Nimitz) and CVN-78 class aircraft carriers and provides instantaneous fuel quality information to maintenance personnel throughout the ship. FTL engineers worked with NAVSEA personnel to develop and execute a First Article Test (FAT) plan. AutoGrape passed all Navy First Article Testing including Shock, Vibration, EMI, Temperature, Humidity, Salt Fog, and Immersion for shipboard use.

A pump blowing air which, in turn, is creating a current of bubbles


FTL has extensive experience developing payload systems for Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV’s) including extensive fluid modeling of the flow and mixed-phase environment surrounding a moving submarine. This has included unique calculations, models, and experimental testing of large bubble plumes in pipes, pools, and open ocean. In particular, FTL has investigated the existence and use of pressure effects from bubble plumes and moving vessels, detected by custom undersea pressure sensor arrays, and verified through computational fluid dynamics calculations.

Air in the water, creating bubbles
An image of a graph, showing water and waste water percentages

WHAM Drinking and Wastewater Analysis Module

In addition to fuels and oils, FTL has experience developing sensor systems for classifying drinking water. WHAM (Weighted Heuristic Analyzer Monitor) is a lightweight, cross-platform expert-system for assessment of candidate water sources based on public regulations. Using no reagents or destructive methods, it executes sensor measurements in real-time in an automated flow-through system, and alalyzes those measurements in parallel to provide instantaneous sample assessment.

Modular and flexible in its design, WHAM can be configured to interface with a wide variety of sensors and apply different sets of regulations based on context and need. Sensor readings (input) and analysis results (output) are separately exported as CSV-style spreadsheets as well as stored together, along with configuration settings, in a portable SQLite database. WHAM has been used to characterize numerous water samples, including deionized water as well as local (Amherst, Massachusetts, USA) tap and pond water.

Render of an army tank and how it performs, has teal lines, outlining its curvature.

M1 Ingested Dust Sensor

In addition to liquids, FTL has experience developing sensors to quantify contaminants in fast gas flows. The AGT 1500 engine developed by Honeywell for the M1 Ground Combat Vehicle has been observed to suffer premature performance degradation due to ingestion of dust, sand, and FOD (Foreign Object Debris) during operation in difficult environments. FTL personnel worked with the Army at the depot-level to develop and test a novel inductive loop sensor that operated almost ideally in the extreme air intake environment of this unique turbine engine. The resulting sensor detected even small dust ingestion events at very high speed and proved to be highly resistant to fouling.

An infographic with a rainbow gradient associated with the image
A group of four photos showing how an electro septic works


FTL developed a forward-deployable wastewater solution for the Air Force. FTL’s “ElectroSeptic” technology was aimed at reducing both energy use and footprint for rapid-setup, air-drop water treatment systems.

The core of the ElectroSeptic technology was a novel microbial fuel cell that could break down organic carbon molecules in wastewater using microbial thin films grown on a semi-permeable aerated membrane. Waste particulates in the effluent were able to be digested by “electrogen” microbes with severely reduced O2 input need, thus saving significant air pumping related costs.

Challenges included optimizing aeration bubble size and delivery and minimization of particulate biomatter build-up. This project was a collaboration with municipal and academic wastewater treatment facilities and included optimization of accurate and automated water monitoring.

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