The University of Bath will work with marine networking technology specialist Actisense to develop an innovative sensor that measures the level of fuel or other liquids in tanks using acoustic technology, improving accuracy and reliability compared to conventional low-cost sensor systems.
Following the award of an Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) grant, University of Bath experts will work alongside Actisense in a two-year collaborative programme. The University will provide the company with its expertise in algorithms for focusing and timing of reflected sound waves, which is critical for the success of an acoustic measuring system.
“Actisense has been at the forefront of sensor and interface innovation for over 25 years. This project will strengthen the technical capabilities of the company and provide a fantastic opportunity to develop a new range of products that will ensure the company remains first choice to our valued customers,” said Philip Whitehurst, CEO of Actisense.
“This is an excellent opportunity for collaboration between two well respected organisations, with an end goal of delivering better data to our new and existing client base. Building upon Actisense’s highly capable team of existing engineers and specialists, this partnership allows us to push the boundaries of technology towards safer and more accurate data in the future,” said Innes Miller, Head of Development and Technology at Actisense.
The project will develop an innovative digital level sensor, which is compact, low-cost, low-power, simple to install, reliable and maintenance free. It will accurately measure the level of many substances in different applications and will not suffer the issues associated with mechanical floats, which are prone to jamming and are expensive to maintain and repair.
“The University can provide the knowledge we need for more specialised digital signal processing algorithms, which will enable the sensor system to compensate for internal obstructions inside tanks, such as baffles, and the effect of a vessel heeling over on the tank contents,” said Robin Richards, Software Project Manager at Actisense.
The acoustic sensor is expected to help Actisense consolidate its position in its main marine and agritech markets and unlock a new market segment. The company estimates the global leisure boat market alone was valued at over $42 billion in 2021, with tens of thousands of boats produced. Additionally, the sensor could be retrofitted to an even larger number of existing boats worldwide.
Under the terms of the KTP, an associate from the University of Bath will work at Actisense for 24 months. The associate will be supervised by Dr Charles Courtney, and co-supervised by Dr Fulvio Pinto, lecturer at the University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, whose expertise will focus on the optimisation and characterisation of the sensing system.
“We are delighted to have this opportunity to apply our experience in acoustic imaging and transducer development to a commercial application. We look forward to working with Actisense’s engineering team to solve some interesting technological problems involving sensing in difficult conditions and provide real benefits to the company and their customers,” Dr Courtney said.
The University of Bath, under its Enterprise and Entrepreneurship programme, offers a range of development and collaboration opportunities including support for start-ups, consultancy, access to expert research networks, and Knowledge Transfer Partnerships.
The KTP programme aims to stimulate innovation, by providing industry-based training and development of talented university graduates, including postgraduates. Around 70% of associates are offered a post with the company on a permanent basis, following project completion.
Typically, the KTP associate works on a strategic project at a company, varying in length from 12 months to 3 years. An academic supervisor at the University, with relevant expertise to the programme, maintains close involvement with the associate and organisation throughout. The partners receive dedicated support throughout the lifecycle of the KTP through the University of Bath’s Business Partnership and Knowledge Exchange Team.