The Sensor Validation Research Group was founded in 1988 to investigate the use of metrology, diagnostics and digital technology to validate industrial sensors. It has received continuous funding from EPSRC and Invensys companies, particularly Foxboro, from its inception until 2015. In 1998 the Invensys University Technology Centre (UTC) for Advanced Instrumentation was established (£1.75M), and in 2003 the funding was renewed for a further 5 years (£3.5M). In 2008 Professor David Clarke retired, and Dr. Manus Henry assumed the post of Director. The UTC is currently staffed by 3 experienced post-doctoral researcher.
The UTC’s concept of the self-validating, or SEVA, sensor has become a British Standard and is reflected in a new Russian metrological standard. A SEVA sensor performs self-validation using device-specific techniques (e.g. measurement analysis, monitoring of auxiliary signals, active self-testing), but then reports the resulting assessment of measurement quality in a standard format, which includes the on-line uncertainty of each measurement. This allows the development of generic control system responses to changes in measurement quality without the need to interpret device-specific error-codes. UTC prototypes have included those based on Coriolis mass flow, vortex flow, magnetic flow, thermocouple, dissolved oxygen, and differential pressure sensors, valve positioners and railway points machines. Recent research has demonstrated the fusion of data from several SEVA sensors for higher level consistency checking, and participation in NPL’s MET project on wireless sensor networks.
The Coriolis mass flow meter was the first instrument studied by the Oxford group. An understanding of the failure modes of the device led, in the mid 90s, to the realisation that an all-digital transmitter design could lead to substantial performance improvements (e.g. fast dynamic response) and reduced vulnerability to important failure modes such as stalling with two-phase flow. Several EPSRC grants have supported the development of a digital Coriolis meter (e.g. GR/K-65867), including a project with Brunel University (GR/S56320), which demonstrated a flowmeter with 4ms response time and 0.66ms update rate. Pivotal to this work is the use of Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) technology, (GR/L41547, GR/J44636). Many publications have resulted, while over 100 patents have been granted in the US and elsewhere. The Oxford Coriolis transmitter technology has been commercialized by Invensys, and since its launch in September 2002 has received several best product awards. The most recent product developed by the Oxford group was the Net Oil and Gas three-phase flow meter.
In 2015, after 15 years of continuous funding, the partnership with Invensys (by now part of Schneider) came to an end. Since then, the renamed Advanced Instrumentation Research Group has developed a new signal processing technique, the Prism, alongside a next-generation Coriolis platform. This is being used, among other applications, for the new high speed flow measurement application monitoring engine fuel injection, working in partnership with The Departments Jaguar Land Rover laboratory.
The UTC was Awarded the Wheatstone Measurement Prize by the IET and NPL in 2007 for its Coriolis work.
Manus Henry has been Director of the Research Group since 2008, and prior to that Deputy Director, having completed an EPSRC Advanced Fellowship in October 2002. Since 1988 he has been developing the self-validating (SEVA) sensor concept through theory and prototypes. He is the chief architect of Oxford’s digital Coriolis transmitter, for which he was awarded the IEE Control Division’s Younger Engineer Medal. He is Associate Editor of Flow Measurement and Instrumentation, a past member of the editorial advisory board of Sensor Review, a Fellow of the Institute of Measurement and Control, past Deputy Chairman of the IEEE committee on Low Power Electronics and System on Chip, and a visiting Professor at Chongqing University, China in 2004. He is a member of the BIES Programme Expert Group for the National Measurement System Flow Metrology Programme. in 2017, he was appointed as external Head of Laboratory at the Scientific Research Laboratory of Equipment and Systems Self-Validation, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, South Ural State University, Chelyabinsk, Russia.
David Clarke was Professor of Control Engineering and Director of the Invensys UTC at Oxford University until 2008. From 1994-9 he was Head of the Department of Engineering Science. He pioneered two key adaptive control algorithms: Generalised Minimum Variance and Generalised Predictive Control. He has been interested for several years in sensor, actuator and loop validation. In 1983 he was awarded the Sir Harold Hartley Silver Medal of the Inst.MC. In 1984 he was elected a Fellow of the IEE, in 1989 a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, and in 1998 a Fellow of the Royal Society.