UIA is a worldwide trade organisation bringing together users and manufacturers of high power ultrasound systems. In granting the award, the Cavimeter was judged by the panel to be "more innovative than the competing equipment". The award is the culmination of a period of research, development and exploitation kick-started by NPL Strategic Research funding in 1997.
Acoustic cavitation is the inception, growth and eventual collapse of micron-sized bubbles in response to an applied acoustic field, and is harnessed in applications as diverse as sonochemistry, food manufacture, ultrasonic cleaning and healthcare. In response to a longstanding industrial need for measurement tools, a novel design for a spatially-sensitive cavitation sensor was conceived by NPL and, funded by a proof-of-concept Strategic Research project, manufactured and tested by the acoustics group at the Laboratory. The cavitation sensor is patent protected in the USA, Europe and Japan in 2002, and its design has been refined and ruggedised using reference cavitation facilities developed at NPL through Government funding. A peer-reviewed publication describing its development and performance won the 2003 Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control (IEEE UFFC) Outstanding Paper Award for 2003.
In 2006, a Measurement for Innovators Joint Industrial Project (MfI JIP) was completed by the National Physical Laboratory and was vital in moving the sensor design forward into small-scale production. The JIP also involved developing a special signal processing module, the NPL Cavimeter, which, when used with the cavitation sensor, provides users with real-time indication of acoustic cavitation. Sensor and Cavimeter were trialled by several UK industrial users during the JIP, enabling them, for the first time, to measure the cavitation activity driving industrial processes, rather than its resultant effects.
In 2008, the first Cavimeter sale was made to a UK manufacturer of high power ultrasound systems, and is now being used routinely to reduce set-up times for customer units and to optimise designs of new vessels. The final stage in the exploitation of the NPL Cavimeter is to license the measurement technology to third parties, and discussions are at an advanced stage to accomplish this.
NPL collected the Award at the 38th Ultrasonics Industry Association Symposium in Vancouver, British Columbia, on March 23rd 2009.