Ultrasonic Room Integrity Testing

Welcome to Coltraco Ultrasonics’ range of Ultrasonic Airtightness and Leak Detection Systems. 

We pride ourselves on the quality, reliability, and accuracy of our instruments – all made in the UK. 

Our air leakage detection systems use ultrasound to monitor the airtight integrity of any room or compartment, with the capability to locate leak sites as small as 0.5mm in diameter.  

Ultrasonic Room Integrity Testing  

Our Portascanner® range of ultrasound testing systems are powerful, portable tools to aid you in your room integrity testing procedures. These devices utilise ultrasound – sound with frequencies outside the range of human hearing – for non-destructive testing to determine airtight integrity by helping you locate specific leak sites. 

Why Choose Ultrasonic Room Integrity Testing?

  1. Unlike standard pressurisation tests, which are disruptive, time consuming and costly, ultrasonic leak testing is quick and non-invasive, allowing you to check for leaks in a matter of minutes with practically no impact on the normal operation of your facilities.
  2. Visual inspections alone cannot be relied upon to detect all leaks. Many air leaks can be too small to see with a visual inspection, or can take convoluted paths through the structure, which may make them difficult to detect. Coltraco Ultrasonics’ Portascanner® range gives you confidence that you have identified and located all the leak sites in your structure, even those under half a millimetre in diameter. 
  3. The Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520 is the world’s first ultrasonic leak detector that is capable of quantifying the physical extent of individual leak sites as well as quantifying the air flow rate through them. Our leak-size quantification algorithms have been independently tested and verified by the National Physical Laboratory.
  4. The Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520 has in-built imaging and reporting functionality, providing unparalleled ease and efficiency in your surveying process. Take a photograph of a structure, mark the locations of any leaks and generate and export PDF reports containing all of the images and data for the tests you have performed.
  5. Technical support, training and advice available throughout the lifetime of the unit and we are here to help you with your application.

How does Ultrasonic Leak Detection Work?

Ultrasonic leak detection takes advantage of the fundamental characteristics and properties of sound waves to identify and precisely locate air leaks in any structure. It makes use of the reflection and absorption of sound waves when incident on a boundary between a solid structure and the air adjacent to it. 

Ultrasonic leak detectors are comprised of two main components: an ultrasound generator, and a receiver unit. The generator is placed on one side of a structure and switched on, filling the room or compartment with ultrasound. The receiver is then deployed on the other side of the structure to scan the structure for leaks. 

When no leak is present, the ultrasound is reflected or absorbed by the structure and so no ultrasound is detected by the receiver. In contrast, when the receiver wand is pointed towards a leak, ultrasound is detected, as it is able to propagate through the leak path in the structure. The precise location of the leak site can be determined by identifying the point in the seal with the maximum readings. Furthermore, the reflection and diffraction of the sound wave as it passes through the leak are affected by the size and shape of the leak, so information about these properties can be interpreted by the receiver. 

Why is Airtightness Important? 

Fire safety: When dealing with fire suppression for server rooms, data centres or other high-value assets, it is important to use gaseous fire suppression systems (i.e., CO2, Inergen®, FM200®, NOVEC™ 1230), as these are clean systems that will not leave residue or damage the assets. For such systems, airtightness is of critical importance. This is because these systems rely on the fire extinguishing gas being contained for long enough to deprive the fire of oxygen and ensure it is fully extinguished. If the room containing the asset has unwanted air leaks, then this may not be achieved, and the fire may spread, causing damages, data loss and, in the worst cases, loss of life. 

Improving indoor air quality: Indoor air quality has been a growing concern for some time, and rightly so, with many people spending as much as 90% of their time indoors. Various solutions have been developed to filter and clean air more effectively, such as HEPA filters or ultraviolet filtration systems, but these processes can only be as effective as the ventilation in the building. In order to have effective ventilation, it is vital that the building has controlled airflow, and that means eliminating unwanted leak sites. 

Reducing energy usage: When heating or cooling a building, airtightness and ventilation is very important. If a building is not sufficiently airtight, even with insulation, temperature control will be considerably less efficient. This has two major implications: an increased carbon footprint and increased operating costs for your building. With an ever-increasing environmental awareness, and campaigns around the world for more building for a sustainable future, airtightness has never been more important in the built environment. 

Advantages to Using Acoustic Leak Detectors Alongside Pressurisation Tests 

Typical room integrity tests involve pressurising the room or compartment and using either a pressure differential meter or air flow measurement devices to monitor its leakage rate. This process is highly intrusive and disruptive, often requiring the room/compartment to be evacuated prior to testing and considerable downtime post testing. It can also be expensive, and if your room fails this test, it must be fixed and retested until it passes. 

Ultrasonic, acoustic leak detection is non-destructive and can be done quickly, with almost no disruption to normal operation, and provides clear diagnosis of any issues. This allows you to carry out repairs ahead of the pressurisation test, so you can be sure you will pass first time. 

Furthermore, pressurisation tests only provide information on the overall leakage rates in the room/compartment, and not on where these leaks are occurring. Our ultrasonic leak detectors enable you to easily identify, locate and even quantify individual leak sites, so you can target any remedial work in the areas it is most needed, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of your work. 

Air Flow Rate Versus Air Permeability 

When considering individual air leaks, and how much of a problem they will be, we can first consider the flow speed of air at a given pressure differential. From the flow speed, if we know the cross-sectional area of the leak, we can take this a step further and calculate a volumetric flow rate, which answers the question “How much air will leak through this hole?”. However, this question and its answer do not tell the full story when we are dealing with airtightness in a room or compartment.  

The relative scale of the problem a given leak will cause depends intrinsically on the size of the room/compartment that the air is leaking into or out of. For this reason, the metrics that we use are not simple air flow rates, but air leakage rates. Typically, these are air permeability, which depends on the envelope area of the room; or air changes per hour, which depends on the volume of the room as well the total rate of air flow through all leaks. The Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520 will automatically collate all the data from each structure tested in a room and provide an air permeability and air changes per hour value for each room. 

Example Case Study – Oxygen Reduction System, UK 

Oxygen Reduction System had a UK server room with a floor area of approximately 91m2. The room was tested with the Portascanner® ultrasonic room integrity tester and points with high readings were noted. This test identified all the main sources of air leakage in the room, thus allowing targeted maintenance work to be carried out. After this maintenance had been conducted, assuming no further changes are made to the room, this room will retain its airtight integrity. Therefore, alongside the required, periodic checks of the room, the Portascanner® gives a high level of confidence that the room will comply with and exceed current ISO 14520 regulations. 

Our leak detection systems are active systems, meaning they include a generator made up of ultrasonic transmitters and a receiver wand. This means that it cannot typically be used for applications such as pressurised pipes and partial electrical discharges.  

These applications use passive systems, which detect the ultrasound generated by the leak or electrical discharge itself. The Portascanner® range is designed to monitor airtight and watertight integrity, and to do so without the need to pressurise the room or compartment.  

We usually recommend placing the generator as far from your test structure as possible. whilst maintaining sufficient readings, particularly when you want to quantify leak sites. This is because, due to the diffusion of sound as it travels through air, at greater distances we have more consistent readings across the entire structure. 

However, if space is an issue and you cannot avoid placing the generator close to the structure, the Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520 has both a variable output power on the generator, as well as variable gain settings on the receiver.  

Ultrasound, when incident on even a very small leak or crack in a structure, will find its way through the leak and be picked up by an ultrasonic sensor. However, clearly not all of the ultrasound will make it through the leak, as the majority will be reflected or absorbed by the structure. From this understanding, we developed sophisticated algorithms so that, with some careful measurements, the Portascanner® AIRTIGHT 520 is able to compare the relative intensities of the ultrasound incident on and passing through the leak, to accurately and reliably quantify its physical size. 

In some circumstances, our Portascanner® range may be able to serve as a complete replacement for a door fan test (or other pressurisation test). In many cases, however, the pressurisation test is mandated by regulations, and in these cases, the Portascanner® is a complementary diagnostic and analytical tool, that will help you pass the pressurisation test first time. It will also provide a far higher level of confidence and robustness for any follow-up maintenance, so you can be sure that once a room is airtight, it stays airtight.  

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