About Fluctomation

Fluctomation is a seed stage start-up located at the Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences in Germany, which was financially supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) within the framework of "START-UP-Hochschul-Ausgründungen".

The aim of the project is the preparation of a spin-off company based on the research work conducted by Dr. Claudio Abels. The project is backed by a multidisciplinary team of scientists, engineers and advisors at the Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences and the Center of Biomolecular Nanotechnologies of the Italian Institute of Technology. The scientific outcome of this international collaboration is an innovative and miniaturized flow sensor which biomimics lateral line organs found in fish.

To enhance today's flow sensing capabilities in industrial automation and robotics applications, future devices can be equipped with a large number of miniaturized flow sensors distributed over the surface. High-density sensor arrays can provide high resolution measurement of the surrounding air or water flow, in various other media like oil, and under harsh flow conditions such as hot fluids. The key feature of our technical solution is in the systems integration of our patented, microscaled hair sensors with low-power electronics and signal processing into a real-time capable device which enables multi-parameter "distant touch" flow sensing inside one-dimensional tubes, over two-dimensional surfaces as well as around and inside three-dimensional objects.

News articles

Read the latest news about Fluctomation.

Technology overview

We are extracting flow direction and velocity information from flow fluctuations.

Sensory component

Modelled after the biological lateral line organ found in fish, our artificial distant touch sense is based on microscaled hair sensors which respond to flow fluctuations to detect fluid motion in the first two millimeters from the surface, the so-called boundary layer. The sensory component is a strain gauge that runs across the entire surface of a bent cantilever which changes its electrical resistance as the cantilever beam flattens (decreases its curvature) or rolls up (increases its curvature) in response to the applied force. In its current stage, the cantilever beam is only 2 μm thin, 100 μm wide and 1.5 mm long. The flow sensor provides measurable differences in voltage proportional to the deformation of the beam.

Sensing principle

The fluctuation based flow sensing approach is based on a mechanical sensing principle and depends on two physical quantities to determine flow velocity and linear direction along the cantilever beam orientation: the spatial distance between individual flow sensors in the sensor array and the temporal delay between sensor signals which are created by propagating flow fluctuations as they pass each of the sensors in turn. By correlating multiple sensor signals, relevant information about local flow velocities in the sensor array, as well as propagation velocity, linear forward/backward direction along the cantilever beam orientation and periodicity of flow fluctuations is extracted.

Technical specifics

As both quantities, distance and time, do not depend on temperature, nor on viscosity or density, our flow sensing technology can be used in changing environmental conditions, varying media, and alternating temperatures. Accuracy and performance of our flow sensing system scales with computing power, providing simultaneous flow sensing with tens of sensor units. Data acquisition hardware specifically designed for our hair sensors is plug-and-play compatible and can be integrated into existing systems. Technological advances in artificial intelligence and parallel computing could enable complex flow analysis in future embedded systems.

Key features

We are working on key elements to enhance today's flow sensing capabilities.

Applicability
Fluctuation based flow sensing is independent of fluid temperature, density and viscosity.
Microscale
Boundary layer flow sensing in complex structures is made possible due to the small sensor footprint.
Versatility
Our sensors can be used inside tubes, over surfaces as well as around and inside complex objects.
Sensitivity
The mechanical stiffness of our hair sensors is adjustable to a customized response sensitivity.
Bidirectionality
Inspired by the lateral line organs found in fish, our sensor design enables bidirectional sensitivity.
Integration
Our chip-scale sensor package allows for "plug and play" integration into electronic instrumentation.
Self-calibration
Sensor calibration is not required in our array configuration. Our software provides a self-calibration method.
Scalability
The performance and accuracy of our software-based flow sensing system scales with computing power.
Research
We are active in research and development, as demonstrated in various peer-reviewed publications.

Projects

We have worked on various research and development projects.

Real-time capable multi-parameter flow measurements
Nitride-based materials for flexible MEMS sensors in robotics
Bidirectional biomimetic flow sensing with artificial hair sensors
CFD simulations with bidirectional coupling between sensor and flow

Teamwork

We are a multidisciplinary team of scientists, engineers, business coaches and external advisors.

Dr. Claudio Abels
Main activities: Business Development, Computer Engineering, Microsystems Engineering, Project Management
Claudio's academic background is in Computer Engineering, Biomimetics and Microsystems Engineering. Between 2004 and 2010, Claudio worked as a software developer and project manager in various communication agencies. Since 2011 he is scientific staff member of the Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences.
Mathias Kroeger, M.Sc.
Main activities: Computational Fluid Dynamics, Finite Element Analyses, Product Engineering, Quality Management
After pursuing a career with the German Armed Forces from 2006 to 2010, Mathias studied Energy Systems Engineering and Product Development in Mechanical Engineering with a focus on computational fluid dynamics. He works in the production and development of electrical and microelectronic devices since 2015.

Team of coaches and advisors

Claudio and Mathias are greatly supported by technical advisors, management consultants and business coaches. Our local university mentor Prof. Dr. William Megill works at the interface between engineering and biology. His research interest is in what goes on underwater, specifically in the coastal and riverine environments. His group designs and builds propulsors and sensors which are incorporated into small submersibles and boats. We are also glad to be supported by Heiner Bongertmann, Chief Executive Officer of BEStax GmbH, an experienced management consultant and business coach who provides guidance with economic questions and accounting.

We are much obliged to have three external advisors from the Center of Biomolecular Nanotechnologies of the Italian Institute of Technology. Prof. Massimo De Vittorio is the center director and professor at University of Salento. His research activity deals with the development of science and technology applied to nanophotonics, nanoelectronics and nano and micro electromechanical systems. Dr. Antonio Qualtieri and Dr. Francesco Rizzi, both experienced researchers at the Center of Biomolecular Nanotechnologies, support the materials science, microsystems engineering and microfabrication work in the cleanroom. While Antonio's focus is on practical microfabrication and cleanroom work, Francesco specialised in MEMS design and multi-physics simulations.

Claudio and Mathias gratefully acknowledge the administrative support offered by the Faculty of Technology and Bionics, Faculty of Communication and Environment and the Centre for Research, Innovation and Transfer at the Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences as well as the Business and Financial Analysis Office at the Italian Institute of Technology.

Cooperating partners

We are collaborating with joint labs, research institutions and microsystems developers.

Contacts

Get in touch with us!

Contact
Dr. Claudio Abels
Tel. +49 2842 90825 624

Office
Campus Kamp-Lintfort
Room 06 02 140

Address
Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences
Friedrich-Heinrich-Allee 25
47475 Kamp-Lintfort, Germany