17 Oct 2023
Utah firm has more than 100 systems in petrochemical facilities worldwide and developed high-stability lasers for Raman.
The acquisition is intended to leverage Process Instruments’ industrial instrumentation business, primarily in the US, with Horiba’s global sales network.
While Raman products from Horiba are widely used in laboratory settings, the addition of Process Instruments will add expertise in the industrial environment - in particular for applications in petrochemical production and oil refineries.
“The integration of Process Instruments’ robust devices and data analysis capabilities cultivated in oil markets with Horiba’s line-up of highly accurate spectroscopy solutions is expected to realize the high-precision real-time monitoring that has typically been difficult to achieve in industrial processes,” stated the Japanese firm.
Outside of the oil industry, Horiba also expects to create new value in process monitoring for pharmaceutical and chemical analysis markets - including the semiconductor sector - where it wants to grow sales revenues.
Process control solutions
Established by company president Lee Smith in 1994, Process Instruments aimed to develop Raman spectroscopy instrumentation specifically for industrial process monitoring.
But the company has also been active in developing the photonics technology enabling Raman to be feasible in industrial settings, with patented designs for lasers to avoid signal-swamping fluorescence effects, as well as spectrographs and multiplexers.
“Our innovative engineers and scientists advanced our precision frequency-stabilized narrow-linewidth diode lasers, along with optically fast (f/2.0) and efficient spectrographs,” states the firm on its web site.
“The development of a low-loss sequential optical multiplexer enhanced our abilities with analysis of more than a dozen streams with a single instrument.”
That progress has seen the Raman instruments deployed in customized process control applications for various industries, with more than 100 such systems installed in some of the largest refinery and petrochemical plants in the world.
“This equipment is being used to optimize the production of fuels, chemicals, and polymers,” explains the firm. “We also work closely with pharmaceutical companies to develop Raman scattering technology for use in optimizing their manufacturing operations.
“We do not just sell Raman instrumentation and components, rather we use Raman instrumentation to solve critical process control problems.”
While similar to infrared spectroscopy, Raman offers advantages both in terms of spectral resolution, and because it does not suffer any interference from water - meaning that a Raman probe can be inserted directly into a process stream for continual analysis.
On the other hand, Raman scattering is an inherently weak phenomenon, and susceptible to interference from fluorescence effects generated by the same excitation laser that produces the scattering from which the Raman signals can be extracted.
Horiba points out that controlling the state of a product material through real-time monitoring of its chemical reaction process - something that non-destructive and fast Raman techniques allow - is driving demand for industrial process monitoring.
“Especially at refinery and petrochemical sites, companies are pursuing efficient measurement of a wide variety of streams in harsh environments,” says the Japanese firm.
“As one core product of Process Instruments, its Raman process spectroscopy is highly competitive and holds a large share of the North American market due to superior robustness and the ability to analyze dozens of streams with a single instrument.
“By taking advantage of Horiba’s global sales and support network, we will be able to expand Process Instruments’ industrial process monitoring business from North America to the rest of the world.”
Horiba also suggests that combining technologies developed by the two companies has “tremendous potential”.
While Horiba already offers a range of high-precision spectroscopy tools, the integration of Process Instruments’ more industrially robust products and data analysis capabilities is expected to realize new devices for high-precision, real-time monitoring, inspiring new Raman applications.
New applications eyed
Horiba cites the biotechnology sector as one key sector with enormous potential for the technique, for example aiding the development of new drugs.
“We will [also] broaden our perspective to create applications for carbon-neutral fields,” said the company, adding that it hoped to develop a wide range of applications across industrial “megatrends” in the energy and environmental, biotechnology and healthcare, and materials and semiconductor markets.
In a release from Horiba, Smith said: “I am extremely excited about the combination of Process Instruments and Horiba. Horiba’s global marketing expertise and vast technology base will expand our process Raman capabilities into new market opportunities around the globe that have not been available previously.”
Jai Hakhu, the CEO of the California-based subsidiary Horiba Instruments, added: “Process Instruments provides [us] with the opportunity to expand [our] Raman analyzer offering for the petrochemical and renewable energy markets.
“Process Instruments adds laboratory QC/QA (quality control/assurance) and process Raman technology to Horiba’s Raman portfolio.”