A New Way to See Vibrations in Plant Equipment

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A vibration imaging system may offer utilities a more comprehensive approach for detecting, characterizing, and tracking vibrations in power plant equipment, an EPRI study finds. Potentially, the technology can be applied in fossil, nuclear, hydropower, and wind power plants.

Over time, vibration in pumps, motors, rotors, and other power plant components can lead to degradation and even failure. Vibration monitoring can detect warning signs of failure, prompting maintenance and potentially preventing costly outages. Traditionally, vibration sensors such as accelerometers are attached to equipment, but these collect data only at individual points and cannot comprehensively assess vibration of components and systems. In addition, deploying these sensors may require component modifications, and the sensors may detach during operation.

EPRI is investigating an imaging system that uses commercially available high-speed cameras and data-processing software to create vibrational maps of entire systems and components. Each pixel in the image is a data point. In the laboratory, the system successfully generated a comprehensive vibration analysis of various components. Researchers confirmed the data’s accuracy by comparing them with readings from a laser vibrometer (a technology commonly used to measure vibration).

When combined with a drone, the system can potentially evaluate components that are difficult to access or view. EPRI set up remote communications and onboard computing and made adjustments to minimize the drone’s motor-induced vibrations. Researchers remotely controlled the integrated imaging system to complete the vibration analysis, and they found that the drone’s vibrations did not adversely impact accuracy.

EPRI plans to collaborate with plant operators on field tests and publish a guide on lessons, best practices, technology improvements, and deployment.

Researchers report that the technology could potentially be integrated with systems for remote inspection and monitoring—such as crawlers, robots, and submersible vehicles.

A vibrational map (also known as a vibragram) created during the EPRI study.
Key EPRI Technical Experts:

John Lindberg
For more information, contact techexpert@eprijournal.com.