Transforming manufacturing process design and operation through Positron Emission Particle Tracking (PEPT)

Many industrial manufacturing processes involve the flow of materials, such as in the production of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, food, home and personal care products.

However, such materials are typically opaque and processes take place within the walls of vessels or pipes which cannot be seen. Understanding and improving these processes therefore requires a measuring technique which can see inside opaque materials and map their flow behaviour.

The University of Birmingham’s interdisciplinary Positron Imaging Centre is responsible for conceiving and developing Positron Emission Particle Tracking (PEPT) – a pioneering tool for studying the fundamentals of flow in physics and engineering. Key researchers include Professor David Parker, Professor Jonathan Seville and Dr Andrew Ingram.

PEPT is the most – and frequently only – effective way to follow motion in opaque systems, particularly within metal-walled vessels.

It has had a major impact, being used to investigate, redesign and improve manufacturing processes at over 20 international companies. This impact on production, commerce, and the economy, has led to gains in productivity due to research-led changes in practice, improved products, more efficient processes, and less waste.

PEPT has, for example, reduced energy usage in the production of detergent powder, resulting in significant environmental impacts and leading to reduced costs. It has enabled businesses to improve design for pharmaceutical manufacturing equipment, leading to multi-million pound sales and enabling new and improved catalyst production processes and customer support.