Taking the Heat: Company Prepares to Launch Innovative Sensors Based on Georgia Tech Research

Maintaining large rotating equipment isn't easy or cheap. Take gas turbines used in power plants: Inspecting one of these behemoths for possible wear and tear costs about $500,000 in parts and labor. If companies skip on periodic checkups, they risk breakdowns averaging $4 million per incident.

Yet Atlanta-based Radatec Inc is about to transform condition monitoring with a new breed of non-contact displacement sensor.

Scheduled for commercial release later this summer, Radatec's sensors provide real-time information about critical mechanical components in areas that were previously off limits.

"We take the guesswork out of maintenance," says Scott Billington, Radatec's president and co-founder. "Instead of having to shut down heavy equipment, Radatec's sensors allow operators to virtually see inside complex machinery and predict when repairs are needed."

Based on microwave technology, Radatec's innovative sensors measure motion by sending a continuous microwave signal toward a vibrating or rotating object. This signal is reflected back to a radio receiver in the sensor.

A patented algorithm then compares the transmitted signal with the received one, calculating a measure of displacement.

In contrast to existing sensors that use capacitive, eddy current or laser technologies, Radatec's sensors:

• Operate at extremely high temperatures - up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.
• Remain unaffected by contaminants such as oil, dust and carbon deposits.
• Are immune to electromagnetic interference.

These unique characteristics allow Radatec's sensors to operate in harsh environments. "Existing sensors work well in certain applications, but can't be used in areas where it's very hot, dirty or contaminated," says Jonathan Geisheimer, Radatec's co-founder and vice president. "And because these regions are often the most stressed areas of machinery, it's where major problems develop first."