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Digital Re-print - November | December 2011

Recent advances in rapid grain testing

Grain & Feed Milling Technology is published six times a year by Perendale Publishers Ltd of the United Kingdom. All data is published in good faith, based on information received, and while every care is taken to prevent inaccuracies, the publishers accept no liability for any errors or omissions or for the consequences of action taken on the basis of information published. Copyright 2010 Perendale Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without prior permission of the copyright owner. Printed by Perendale Publishers Ltd. ISSN: 1466-3872




Recent advances in rapid grain testing

by Stefan Tordenmalm, Product Manager, Perten Instruments AB, Sweden

ccurate, rapid and reliable grain analyzers are important tools to the grain industry. Whether trading or processing grain, grain quality testing is at the heart of the business. Moisture, protein, oil and specific weight (Hectoliter Weight / Test Weight) are among the most commonly determined quality parameters.

Radio Frequency (RF) moisture meters and Near InfraRed (NIR) analyzers have been used for decades to determine these parameters. While moisture testing is ubiquitous, NIR instruments are used when parameters such as protein or oil must supplement the moisture measurement. This has long been the case for wheat in many countries, and for oilseeds in fewer countries. As more and more markets introduce grain pricing based on factors such as protein or oil content, the interest in NIR instruments increases. Currently there are as many as 10,000 NIR grain analyzers in use globally, and more than 15,000 RF moisture meters. Although previous models have been highly useful for grain grading, recent advances help grain companies become even more efficient.

other applications. Remote service and support is facilitated through internet communication and modern software tools. An example is the Inframatic 9500 from Perten Instruments where TeamViewer software is pre-installed on all instruments allowing support staff to connect securely to instruments regardless of location. More specific improvements to NIR instruments and RF moisture testers are reviewed in the following sections.

NIR grain analysis improvements

For readers who are unfamiliar with the basics of NIR technology, we start with a short introduction. As implied, infrared light is used in Near InfraRed grain analyzers. The general principle is that substances such as moisture, protein and fat absorb specific wavelengths of infrared light. The higher the concentration, the more light is absorbed. A parallel is found in how juice of higher concentration is darker than those of lower concentrations (see picture). In the same way we can easily see which glass contains the strongest tasting juice, an NIR instrument can see the difference in protein content between different grain samples. NIR instruments use a lamp to illuminate the sample, and a detector measures how much of the light was absorbed by the sample. A mathematical formula (calibration) is used to derive the protein concentration from the amount of absorbed light. Modern NIR instruments implement the most up to date electronics and hardware meaning significant improvements in accuracy and system performance are achieved. While the general principle is easy enough to understand, designing and building accurate NIR grain analyzers is difficult. Getting good light absorption information from a grain sample is similar to taking photos in the dark without using a flash: you need high sensitivity, low noise detectors and electronics. Expensive, modern cameras produce much better pictures than cameras just a few years old as sensor and signal processing technologies have improved greatly. Older cameras produce noisier photos. The same is true for NIR grain analyzers where the most recent models offer better accuracy. A challenge when building NIR grain analyzers is to ensure that all instruments are identical (i.e. matched), robust,

Benefits of using modern IT

Touch screen technology is everywhere today, and is now available in newer grain analyzers. Some of the most recent instruments incorporate large color-touch screens making them easier to operate than older models with often-complicated steps and menus. This helps operators avoid mistakes and costly errors. Modern instruments are built on standardized software platforms such as Microsoft Windows and have USB and Ethernet connections. Users can easily connect printers, barcode readers, wireless communication etc, without being locked in by vendor specific solutions. An obvious benefit is to the simplicity of access to analytical results and exchange of data with

unchanging over time, and traceable to a fixed reference. Matching instrument hardware allows users to get the same results from the same samples on different instruments. Often labeled transferability as it relates to using one calibration on multiple instruments, transferability makes possible networks of instruments used to analyze and grade entire commodities of grain across a wide geographical area. It ensures payments are made fairly and equitably based upon measureable quality attributes. Newer instruments incorporate several methods for hardware matching. The first is an optics bench made from a single piece of machined metal. Being a single piece, its dimensions and characteristics do not change over the life of the instrument. For the next improvement, its useful to employ the digital camera analogy. Those who have compared two photos of the same object taken with two different cameras will know that colors dont always match. The photo from one camera might have slightly stronger blues while the photo from the other camera could be stronger in reds. To standardize digital cameras, reference color charts with defined hues of red, blue, yellow and other colors are used. For NIR grain analyzers the equivalent reference is a wavelength reference material, supplied by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The NIST standard consists of several components which each absorb light at a specific wavelength. These can be inserted in the NIR instrument at factory for standardization. This, - in combination with the single piece optics - results in identical individual instruments from a measurement point of view. They produce the same result when analyzing the same sample. As an extra benefit, this creates full traceability back to a fixed reference for ISO and other purposes.

measurement cell containing a radio transmitter and receiver. As the radiowave is sent into the sample and it hits water molecules, it is changed and exits the sample looking a bit different. The moisture meter reads the radiowave as it exits the sample and detects the amount of change. The change correlates to the amount of water in the sample. A mathematical formula is applied to derive the correct moisture content. To present the moisture content in percent, the total sample is weighed, and the amount of water detected is divided by the sample weight. A few years ago, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) introduced an improvement to RF moisture testing using a 150 MHz signal instead of the older 1-10 MHz. This brought about significant accuracy improvements in moisture testing. Approximately 1,000 instruments worldwide use the new technique. More recently the USDA presented an update to the 150 MHz technology where further improvements were made. Overall accuracy has further improved, and its now possible to test moisture with accuracy in frozen grain to -20C. The AM 5200 uses the updated 150 MHz technology and is officially approved in the USA by the National Type Evaluation Program (NTEP). Compared to its predecessor, the AM 5100, repeatability and agreement between

units has improved 50 percent thanks to updates in electronics and improvements in factory standardizations.

Technology engineering Service

By employing the latest advances in instrumentation, grain handling organizations will be able to grade grain more accurately and confidently. They will also benefit from improved reliability and lower costs of ownership. Whether moisture is the only parameter that is tested, or a wider range of traits are determined, the most recent equipment offers significant benefits compared to the previous generations.

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RF moisture testing improvements

RF moisture testing is based on the fact that radiowaves of certain frequencies interact with water molecules. In a moisture meter, the sample is dropped into a

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Food and Feed Quality Control

Reference and Fast-Screening Methods

Discover the perfect interaction of BUCHI Instruments for food and feed quality control. Solutions for protein analysis: BUCHI offers Kjeldahl Distillation and Digestion instruments ranging from basic to fully automated. Kjeldahl serves as reference method for protein determination using NIR Spectroscopy. The NIRMaster is the rst FT-NIR spectrometer, enabling rapid non-destructive determination of protein content at the production line or in the QC lab. Solutions for fat analysis: For fat determination explore the unique automated Soxhlet or Hot Extraction instruments. These classical extraction techniques serve as reference methods for fat determination using NIR Spectroscopy. The innovative NIRMaster is able to quantify fat content in just a few seconds per sample. Additional information is available on: www.buchi.com

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