Sensors and DAQ keeping rarified company

Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with manufacturing—especially the process industries—knows that sensors and the DAQ systems that pass information from them along to where it’s needed are the life blood of the business. You don’t run a refinery, a food production facility, a chemical plant or an automated factory line without them. But if you think their ubiquity is limited o the manufacturing space, think again.

The latest data logger from Onset Computer Corporation is sitting in the same glass case as one of the four surviving original copies (and the best one) of the Magna Carta in Salisbury Cathedral in England.

An Onset HOBO MX1101 Bluetooth Temperature/Relative Humidity data logger, which can measure and transmit temperature and relative humidity data wirelessly to mobile devices via Bluetooth technology, is keeping an eye on the ambient conditions surrounding this very rare and valuable document.

“Preserving the text is of paramount importance,” said Emily Naish, archivist at Salisbury Cathedral. “Excessive humidity can cause parchment to buckle as it tries to revert to its natural shape. The parchment can expand while the ink remains static, causing ink to lift from the text. As the room in which the Magna Carta is displayed has large glass windows, it is prone to these kinds of damaging fluctuations in humidity.”

Because the display case is sealed and protected by alarm systems, there was no way to constantly monitor temperature and humidity without going through the time-consuming and complicated process of switching off the alarms and accessing the case.

To address this issue, the Cathedral’s exhibition team installed the MX1101 data logger. It enables staff to use a smartphone or tablet to access the environmental data at any time from a distance up to 100 feet, without having to open the display case.

Meanwhile, 40 miles down the road in Portsmouth, Honeywell Process Systems has been hanging with the marine archeologists for some years now.

For the beginning of this story, we have to go back to 1545, when the Mary Rose, the pride of Henry VIII’s navy, was sunk in the mud of the Solent, just outside Portsmouth’s inner harbor. Its remains were found in 1971, and the recovery and restoration has been going on ever since, culminating in the opening of the new Mary Rose Museum this year.

Honeywell comes into the picture when the remains of the hull were raised, and the archeologists began the difficult task of preserving it, the challenge being to keep the half-decayed hull from crumbling to bits. Doing so involved getting the hull into a container where it was regularly sprayed with filtered, recycled water that was kept at a temperature of 2 to 5 °C (35 to 41 °F) to keep it from drying out and then slowly, over time, replacing the water in the hull with polyethylene glycol. (For more details on what went into this process, go to Section 7.2 of the Wikipedia entry on the Mary Rose.

Honeywell contributed large parts of the technology that ran the spraying system and the temperature and humidity controls for the project. See my earlier blog post for more details. Jason Urso of Honeywell confirmed that the company did supply technology for the project. Unfortunately, that link and the email have been lost. However, if you go to page 22 of the 2013 Mary Rose Foundation annual report, at the very bottom of the graphic anchor listing all the contributors to the project, you will see Honeywell’s name. 

If anybody at Honeywell can supply more details, please send them along and I’ll share them.