S.A.R.P Spectral Analyser for Recycled Plastics

September 14, 2023

Automated detection of non-plastic materials in internationally transported plastic waste is crucial for ensuring efficient recycling, minimizing recalls, and discouraging any activities that might result in environmental harm.

To address the challenge, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Can Do Innovation Challenge Fund partnered up with Filament PD and Apixa to evaluate the technical feasibility of a modular and portable solution to scan through individual bales of plastic waste before they are transported.

Key requirements

Several interviews with potential end users helped to identify the key requirements for the system as such:

  • Modularity and portability of the system for easy transport in a van or car
  • Straightforward assembly and maintenance
  • Simple calibration procedure
  • Scientific accuracy and trusted results
  • Robustness to outdoor operation and variable environmental conditions
  • Ability to gather and record evidence

Technical feasibility

After several trials, we identified that dual-energy (DE) X-ray highlights the differences in scanned materials better than other imaging techniques. Different materials interact distinctly with high and low-energy X-rays, making a classification possible after tunning the system and combining both images.

Dual energy X-ray images with different tunings

Concept system overview

The solution would embody a portable and modular scanning system that can be set up in minutes around a plastic bale. X-ray emitter and detector would automatically align at either side of the plastic bale and move synchronously in 2 dimensions to make multiple scans. 

The software would automatically stitch the individual scans together to produce a complete image of the bale’s composition.

The operator would be able to set up the scan and view its progress via a wirelessly connected tablet and straightforward UI. Potential contaminants within the bale would be highlighted to alarm the operator about the need for further inspection. The recorded data will also be uploaded to the cloud storage so that it can be used as evidence.

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