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Flow

Measurement
Fundamentals
Table of Contents
Flow Fundamentals .................................................................. 2
Bernoulli's Principle .................................................................. 3
Applications of Bernoulli's Principle .......................................... 4
Viscosity ................................................................................... 7
Laminar vs. Turbulent Flow ...................................................... 7
Reynold's Number .................................................................... 8
Volumetric Flow Rate ............................................................... 9
Orifice Plate ........................................................................... 10
Non-Linear Output Signals ..................................................... 11
Venturi Tube .......................................................................... 12
Rotameter .............................................................................. 13
Rotary-Vane & Lobed Impeller ............................................... 14
Flow Fundamentals
The control of flow is an essential part of any instrumentation process control system. Many
process variables are dependent upon a regulated flow of liquids, solids or gases. In some operations,
accurate flow measurements are the determining factor as to whether or not the control system
works the way it was designed to operate. As in all process variables, the reason for taking
measurements is either to ensure safety or to ensure that the product at the end of the process is
within specifications.

There are basically four reasons that flow control would be used:

1. If materials are being combined during a manufacturing process, we need to know how much of
each material has been added.

2. In many chemical reactions, or food industry processes, you cannot just dump each ingredient into
the mixture. Many times the components must be supplied at a precise rate during the mixing and
blending of ingredients.

3. Over-flow conditions could lead to over-pressure conditions, over-heating and spills to occur

4. Finally, flow measurements are used to determine how much of a product is passed from the
supplier to the customer.

You may be wondering at this point whether you are enrolled in a plumbing course rather than
an electrical course. An understanding of what you are measuring, and how those measurements are
taken is essential to achieving accurate and dependable data. The accurate measurement and control
of fluid flow is essential in industrial processing plants that use water, steam, gases, petroleum, acids,
base solutions, and other types of fluid materials.

A flow-meter is a device that measures movement of fluid in a conduit or an open space. In


process control terminology, a Fluid is defined as a material that may exist in either a Liquid, a Gas,
or a Vapour form. Therefore this fluid could be water, chemicals, air, gas, steam or even solids.

If you want to get more specific as to where a flow meter is used, just think of all the processes
that take place on a daily basis to make our lives easier. The vitamin you take when you get up
requires precise control over the mixes for that batch of vitamins, the water treatment plant needs
tight control over flow of water and treatment chemicals. The gas to your house, or the gas at the
station both use a flow meter to measure gas flow so that your bill accurately reflects your level of
consumption.

2
Bernoulli’s Principle
A Dutch-Swiss mathematician and physicist, named Daniel Bernoulli
discovered in the 18th century that pressure and density are inversely related.
Bernoulli’s also found that a slow-moving fluid exerts more pressure than a fast-
moving fluid. Now, we just stated that a fluid in this case can be a liquid or a
gas. So, Bernoulli’s principle can be used to illustrate many phenomenon
including why your shower curtain billows inward, how the flow rate in a pipe
stays constant, to how an airplane stays aloft due to pressure differences on the
surface of its wings.

Bernoulli actually discovered this principle while conducting experiments to confirm the Law of
Conservation of Energy. This law states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it simply
transforms from one form to another. In the 1730’s, he conducted experiments to demonstrate the
conservation of energy using liquids. He was specifically looking at how water flows through pipes of
different diameters. In a large diameter pipe, he observed that the water flowed slowly, but as it
entered a segment of smaller diameter, its speed increased.

Something had to be acting upon the water to increase its speed. From your study of pressure
laws in Basic, you will recall that Boyle found that pressure and volume have an inverse relationship.
If you increase the pressure on a fluid, the molecules are pressed closer together, and the volume
decreases. If you then decrease the pressure on the fluid, the molecules make use of the available
space, and the volume increases.

As fluid moves from a wider pipe to a narrower one, the volume of that fluid that moves a given
distance in a given time period does not change. But, since the inside diameter of the narrower pipe
is smaller, the fluid must move faster in order to achieve the same volumetric flow rate. A good
illustration for this principle is the flow dynamics of a river. If you think about the Ottawa river, it
flows fairly slowly when it has a wide, un-constricted area to flow through. However, if its flow is
narrowed by rock, then it speeds up dramatically.

The cool thing is that in both parts of the river, the


volumetric flow rate is virtually identical. The same amount of
water flows past a given point in the same amount of time.
Now, if we transfer this analogy back to the closed pipe
system, and the volume passing through a given length of pipe
during a given period of time will be the same, there must be a
decrease in pressure. Hence Bernoulli's conclusion: the slower
the rate of flow, the higher the pressure, and the faster the
rate of flow, the lower the pressure.

3
Applications of Bernoulli’s Principle
Airplanes and Spoilers

There is debate whether the following examples demonstrate


Bernoulli’s principle or in fact are the result of Radial Momentum.
Regardless, they give us a basic understanding of how fluid movement
can create a differential pressure that allows such phenomenon as lift
of an airplane. An airplane wing is built to mimic the design of a bird's wing. An airfoil has a
streamlined design. Its shape is rather like that of an elongated, asymmetrical teardrop lying on its
side, with the large end toward the direction of airflow, and the narrow tip pointing toward the rear.
Both are curved along the top, so that when air passes over the wing and divides, the curve forces the
air on top to travel a greater distance than the air on the bottom. In fact, if a single air current hits an
airfoil, the design of an airplane's wing is such that the air that flows over the top will attempt to
reach the back end of the airfoil at the same time as the air that flows over the bottom of the wing.
In order to do this, the air over the top must speed up. When the air over the top of the wing speeds
up, it’s pressure drops. Now we have a high pressure below the wing, and a low pressure above the
wing. This difference in pressure creates lift of the aircraft.

Race cars use the principle to keep their


wheels pressed to the ground as they accelerate.
A race car's spoiler, shaped like an upside-down
wing, with the curved surface at the bottom,
produces a net downward force.

4
Atomizers and Chimneys

Various everyday inventions make use of Bernoulli’s principle, namely chimneys and perfume
atomizers. A chimney draws air upward, and this explains why a windy day outside makes for a better
fire inside. With wind blowing over the top of the chimney, the air pressure at the top is reduced, and
tends to draw higher-pressure air from down below.

The air inside the perfume bottle is moving relatively slowly; therefore, according
to Bernoulli's principle, its pressure is relatively high, and it exerts a strong downward
force on the perfume itself. In an atomizer there is a narrow tube running from near the
bottom of the bottle to the top. At the top of the perfume bottle, it opens inside another
tube, this one perpendicular to the first tube. At one end of the horizontal tube is a
simple squeeze-pump which causes air to flow quickly through it. As a result, the
pressure toward the top of the bottle is reduced, and the perfume flows upward along
the vertical tube, drawn from the area of higher pressure at the bottom. Once it is in the
upper tube, the squeeze-pump helps to eject it from the spray nozzle.

Counter-intuitive Examples

Have you ever been in the shower, and had the shower curtain continually billow in towards
you. You would think that when you turned on the shower, the water flow would push against the
curtain and press it against the side of the tub. Instead, the fast-moving air generated by the flow of
water from the shower creates a center of lower pressure, and this causes the curtain to move away
from the slower-moving air outside. This is just one example of the ways in which Bernoulli's principle
creates results that, on first glance at least, seem counterintuitive—that is, the opposite of what
common sense would dictate.

How about when you are playing baseball, and the pitcher throws a curve ball. You see the ball
leave the pitcher's hand at one height, but swing and a miss, the ball has dropped dramatically by the
time it crosses the plate. The reason for this is that the air flowing over the ball is
moving in a direction opposite to the spin, whereas that flowing under it is moving in
the same direction. The opposite forces produce a drag on the top of the ball, and
this cuts down on the velocity at the top compared to that at the bottom of the ball,
where spin and airflow are moving in the same direction.

5
Two other quick demonstrations that we performed in class involved blowing air over a piece of
paper and under an index card. The first demonstration was to hold a piece of paper by the corners
and blow over top of the paper. Your first thought was probably that the paper would be forced
downward by the force of your breath. The opposite happened however, the paper moved upward
because the increase in air velocity created a lower pressure above the paper.

The second demonstration involved index cards. The first index card, without the folds, was first
laid flat against the table. When you attempted to blow underneath it, it vibrated and moved forward
across the table. It vibrates because the air is passing alternately above and below the card, and
finally finds lift because more air is passing above the card. We then placed small ½” folds on the
ends and then rested the card on those bends. Now it seemed that the harder we blew underneath
the card, the more the card stayed in place. Now that the bends are in place, there is a channel for
the air to pass under the card, creating a low pressure, and pressing the card more and more into the
table.

In the shipping industry, empty ships are never parked within close vicinity of each other. The
reason being is that the two ships may actually be drawn together and smash. To illustrate this
phenomenon, take two empty pop cans and place them about a half inch apart. The air flow around
both cans should now be at the same relative speed. If you now blow between the cans you create a
faster air flow, and a resulting lower pressure. The cans should now pull towards each other.

6
Viscosity
In 1904, the German physicist Ludwig Prandtl (1875-1953) was conducting experiments in liquid
flow. While observing the flow of liquid in a tube, Prandtl found that a tiny portion of the liquid
adheres to the surface of the tube in the form of a thin film, and does not continue to move. This he
called the viscous boundary layer. Prandtl's findings would play a significant part in aerodynamics, the
study of airflow and its principles and hydrodynamics, the study of water flow and its principles.

Like many propositions in physics, Bernoulli's principle describes an ideal situation in the
absence of other forces. One such force is viscosity, the internal friction in a fluid that makes it
resistant to flow. Think of the motor oil commercials, “heat and friction cause viscosity breakdown of
non-synthetic oil”. Motor oil is rated for viscosity by heating it to a specified temperature, and then
allowing it to flow out of a specifically sized hole. Its viscosity rating is determined by the length of
time it takes to flow out of the hole. If it flows quickly, it gets a low rating. If it flows slowly, it gets a
high rating. Engines need oil that is thin enough for cold starts, and thick enough when the engine is
hot. Since oil gets thinner when heated, and thicker when cooled, most of us use what are called
multi-grade, or multi-viscosity oils.

Viscosity is the physical resistance of the fluid to flow. The viscosity, or a liquids ability to flow
decreases as temperatures rise. And just to make things more confusing, the viscosity of a Gas
increases as temperatures rise. Since temperature is a major influence on how fluids flow, they
decided upon the reference temperature on which to base flow rates is 60 º F.

Laminar vs. Turbulent Flow


Remember that air and water are both examples of fluids, substances which—whether gas or
liquid—conform to the shape of their container. The flow patterns of all fluids may be described in
terms either of laminar flow, or of its opposite, turbulent flow.

Laminar flow is smooth and regular, always moving at the same speed and in the same
direction. Also known as streamlined flow, it is characterized by a situation in which every particle of
fluid that passes a particular point follows a path identical to all particles that passed that point
earlier. There is a phenomenal You Tube video demonstrating this if you key in Laminar Flow.

In Turbulent flow, the fluid is subject to continual changes in speed and direction. Turbulent
flow is the result of the fluid hitting an obstacle, or high speeds of the fluid.

Every time we turn on the tap at home we witness the transition from Laminar to Turbulent
flow. If you turn on the tap so that the water flows at a reduced rate, you can actually see through
the stream of water. This is because the water is flowing in distinct sheets or lines of flow. As you
increase the flow from the tap, the water stream becomes white water. The flow is no longer
restricted to distinct lines, in fact, little vortices are forming in the flow which are trapping air
molecules, which makes it impossible to see through the stream of water.

7
Reynold’s Number
Another example of laminar and turbulent flow is the rising smoke from a cigarette. The smoke
initially travels in smooth, straight lines (laminar flow) then starts to “wave” back and forth
(transition flow) and finally seems to randomly mix (turbulent flow). Sir Osborne Reynolds was the
gentleman who decided to quantify turbulence in a fluid system. He developed the following formula:

R = VDp
µ
R = Reynold’s Number V = Velocity D = Pipe Inside Diameter

p = Fluid Density µ = Liquid Viscosity

Let’s examine the air flowing over the top of your car. If you are
driving slowly, the air flows over the car in a laminar fashion. As
we speed up, however, the air no longer follows a straight path.
The air molecules that were once travelling in distinct lines now
start to collide with the air flow line above it. These collisions
create turbulence, and this turbulence creates drag.

If we break down the Reynolds number equation above, if the air is more dense then these collisions
are more likely to occur. The faster the air is flowing the more likely these collisions will occur and
create eddy’s. Finally, the larger the pipe diameter, the farther that flow can move, and again, the
more collisions occur. Now what allows a fluid to remain Laminar?. The ability of the fluid to
stick to itself, or the viscosity of the fluid allows the fluid molecules to move together.

8
If you plug all your values in to this equation, all of the units will cancel each other out and you
will be left with a dimensionless number.

If the Reynold’s number is less than 2,000... You are going to have Laminar Flow

If the Reynold’s number is between 2,000 and 4,000... You are going to have Transitional Flow

If the Reynold’s number is greater than 4,000... You are going to have Turbulent Flow

Units of Measurement for Flow


The two common classifications for flow measurements are:

Volumetric Flow Rate

Mass Flow Rate

Volumetric Flow Rate

In many situations, volumetric flow rate is not a direct measurement of that material. Instead,
the flow rate is an Inferred measurement, meaning that some other variable is measured, and then
converted into a rate of flow measurement. Many times flow rate is determined by using the velocity
of the fluid, and the area of the pipe in which it is travelling in the following formula:

Q=VxA
Q = the volumetric flow rate (in units of volume per units of time)

V = the velocity of the fluid

A = the cross-sectional area of the pipe

9
Various Types of Flow Meters

Orifice Plate
In our lessons on Level we became intimate with the Differential Pressure Meter. It is not only
used for level measurement, it can also be used for flow measurement. A Transducer, or Primary
Element that makes use of the DP Cell is the Orifice Plate.

The easiest way to change the diameter of the pipe is to introduce a plate with a smaller orifice
or diameter than the actual pipe. An orifice plate is a flange that incorporates a thin metal plate that
has a central hole punched out. Its function is to convert the pressure difference on either side of the
plate into a measurement that is used to indicate fluid flow.

The beauty of the orifice plate is that it is economical, doesn’t take up much space and it can
be easily removed and replaced once it wears. The disadvantages are that it is less efficient and less
accurate than other flow meters. Because of the design, it is not used for slurries as the plate is
subject to wear and collects dirt and sediment.
High Low
The orifice plate creates a dramatic reduction in the size of the pipe diameter. As we have
learned above, Bernoulli states that the fluid flow will reduce on the inlet side and a corresponding
pressure increase will occur. On the outlet side of the orifice plate, the fluid flow increases, and the
pressure decreases. A pressure port is tapped into the pipe one pipe diameter before the plate, and
after the plate at the Vena Contracta. The Vena Contracta is just a fancy way of describing the
minimum pressure location.
Pipe taps

High Low
Vena Contracta

Vena contracta taps

The two pressure ports are plumbed to a pressure transducer that incorporates a diaphragm that
deflects based on the difference between the two applied pressures. The name for this sensor is a
Differential Pressure Transducer, or “DP Cell”.

10
Non-Linear Signal from Orifice Plate and Venturi Tube
For many sensors, the output varies directly the input, or is a linear (straight-line) relationship.
This is not the case with a flow transducer output. The pressure differential between the inlet and
outlet ports increases exponentially with an increase in slow. Therefore:

Flow Rate² is proportional to the Differential Pressure

For example: if the taps from the orifice plate yield an output of 20 kPa for a flow rate of 200 Lpm,
then an output of 40 kPa would indicate a flow rate of 800 Lpm.

The circuitry of the sensor will have to compensate for this non-linear relationship. It basically takes
the square root of the differential pressure to give the flow rate. Often a linear measuring device such
as a rotameter is used to provide a visual confirmation of the sensor output.

11
Venturi Tube
Giovanni Venturi (1746-1822), is credited with developing the Venturi tube, an instrument for
measuring the drop in pressure that takes place as the velocity of a fluid increases.

The Venturi Tube operates in exactly the same fashion as


the Orifice Plate. As the diameter of the pipe becomes smaller,
the velocity of the fluid increases, resulting in a decrease in
pressure. The low pressure reading is taken at the location with
the smallest diameter, and the high pressure reading is taken at
the incoming portion of the pipe before the fluid converges.

Since the Venturi Tube has no sudden changes in contour,


solid particles tend to slide through its throat. This bad boy is
good for slurries and dirty fluids that would otherwise get trapped
in the orifice plate. Since there is no wall of restriction like the orifice plate, the resulting
measurements are not as accurate.

SENSOR
UPSTREAM TAP
THROAT TAP

THROAT

12
Rotameter
A rotameter is an industrial flow-meter used to measure the flow rate of liquids and gases. The
rotameter consists of a tube and float. The rotameter is popular because it has a linear scale, a relatively
long measurement range, and low pressure drop. It is simple to install and maintain.

The rotameter's operation is based on the variable area principle: fluid flow raises a float in a
tapered tube, increasing the area for passage of the fluid. The greater the flow, the higher the float is
raised. The height of the float is directly proportional to the flow rate.

With liquids, the float is raised by a combination of the buoyancy of the liquid and the velocity
head of the fluid. With gases, buoyancy is negligible, and the float responds to the velocity head alone.
The float moves up or down in the tube in proportion to the fluid flow rate and the area between the
float and the tube wall. The float reaches a stable position in the tube when the upward force exerted by
the flowing fluid equals the downward gravitational force exerted by the weight of the float. A change in
flow rate upsets this balance of forces. The float then moves up or down, changing the area until it again
reaches a position where the forces are in equilibrium. To satisfy the force equation, the rotameter float
assumes a distinct position for every constant flow rate. However, it is important to note that because
the float position is gravity dependent, rotameters must be vertically oriented and mounted.

13
Rotary-Vane Flow-meter
DRIVE COUPLING
(ROTATES COUNTERCLOCKWISE)

BLADE ROTOR

(COURTESY OF TOKHEIM)

This is a form of Positive-Displacement flow meter. Positive displacement flow meters are rotary
instruments that make direct measurements to determine flow. They separate the fluid into distinct
segments of known values, and then multiply the count times the known value of each segment to
determine the volumetric measure of flow.

As the fluid enters the body of this meter it turns a rotor. As the rotor turns, the vanes slide in
and out so that they always make contact with the body of the meter. Since the volume of each
segment between the vanes is known, the volumetric flow rate can be determined by multiplying the
displacement time the RPM.

Lobed Impeller Flow-meter


Oval gear, or Lobed Impeller flow meters have two rotating, oval-shaped gears with
synchronized, close fitting teeth. A fixed quantity of liquid passes through the meter for each
revolution. Again, the force that turns the shaft is the measured fluid. Since the volume of fluid
required to turn the lobes one revolution is known, then shaft rotation can be monitored to obtain
specific flow rates.
A

B B A A
B

1 2 3

14
Turbine Flow-meter
Turbine flow-meters have been widely
accepted as a proven technology that is
applicable for measuring flow with high
accuracy and repeatability.

Some turbines provide a frequency


output signal that is proportional to the flow
rate. The entire fluid to be measured enters
the flow-meter, then passes through a rotor.
The fluid passing the rotor causes it to turn
with an angular velocity that is proportional
to the fluid linear velocity; therefore the
volumetric flow rate is linear within given
limits of flow rate.

The pickup coil contains a permanent magnet.


Each time one of the ferrous blades passes
through the magnetic field, the flux lines become distorted. When the magnetic lines are distorted,
they cut across a separate pick up coil, which generates a pulse due to the induced voltage. The
frequency of the pulses is proportional to the rotational speed of the turbine. The pick up coil then
converts the rotor velocity to an equivalent frequency signal.

These flow-meters are often used as master flow-meters due to their excellent repeatability.

15
Coriolis Mass Flow-meter
A mass flow meter measures the actual quantity of a mass of a flowing fluid. Volumetric flow
meters are not very good for determining the quantity of material. Changes in pressure and temperature
can affect density, which introduces errors when you try to convert volumetric flow to actual quantity of
material. The two most common mass flow meters are the Coriolis meter and the Thermal Mass meter.

A Coriolis meter is a mass flow meter consists of a special formed tube that is oscillated at a right
angle to the flowing mass of liquid. The flow is divided and then passes through two tubes of equal length
and shape. The tubes are firmly attached to the meter and are made to oscillate in opposite directions
from each other. The fluid accelerates as it is vibrated and causes the tubing to twist back and forth
while the tube oscillates.

Two detectors, one on the inlet and the other on the outlet, consist of a magnet and a coil
mounted on each tubing section at the points of maximum motion. Each of these detectors develops a
sine wave current due to the opposite oscillations of the two sections of tubing. The sine waves are in
phase when there is no flow through the tubes. When there is flow, the tubes twist in opposite
directions, resulting in the sine waves being out of phase.

The Coriolis mass flow meter provides a very accurate measurement of the flow of either liquids or
gases. Its even great for corrosive fluids. A number of output signals is available from this sensor including
the mass flow, density, temperature and oscillating frequency.

Mass Flow:
No Flow:
Twisting of
Parallel Deflection
Coriolis

16
FLUID
FORCE
FLOW

FLOW

FLUID
FORCE
VIBRATING FLOW TUBE FLUID FORCES REACTING TO
VIBRATION OF FLOW TUBE

TWIST
ANGLE

TWIST
ANGLE

END VIEW OF FLOW TUBE SHOWING TWIST

Electromagnetic Flow-meter
Magnetic flowmeters use Faraday's law of induction to obtain a measurement of flow. The law
states that relative motion at right angles between a conductor and a magnetic field will develop a
voltage in the conductor. The induced voltage is proportional to the relative velocity of the conductor
and the magnetic field.
SENSING
The magnetic flowmeter is a ELECTRIC FIELD, E ELECTRODE

transducer that converts the volumetric flow


FIELD
rate of a conductive substance into a COILS
voltage. Therefore the fluid itself must have PROCESS
PIPE
some minimum conductivity to act as the INNER
DIAMETER,
conductor. The two electromagnetic coils D
are mounted across from each other and
outside the pipe walls. The two electrodes
that sense the induced voltage are mounted MAGNETIC
inside the pipe wall. FIELD, B
CONDUCTIVE
PROCESS
The induced voltage is directly FLUID FLOW, V
proportional to the flow rate. This means
that as the fluid speed increases, the
induced voltage increases. These sensors are
used to measure acids, sewage, detergents
and liquid foods.
MAGNETIC FIELD

17
Thermal Flow-meter

The thermal flow detector works


on the principle of thermal conductivity.
Thermistor sensing head 1 is mounted
inside the pipe. As fluid passes, it carries
away heat from the thermistor. The
higher the rate, the cooler the
thermistor becomes, increasing its
resistance. The result is that the
Wheatstone bridge becomes more
unbalanced and the output voltage goes
higher. A meter with a flow rate scale is
connected across the output terminals
and indicates the increase.

If the temperature of the fluid


happens to change, so will the
thermistor resistance. To prevent the flow meter from giving a false reading, a second thermistor sensing
head is used. Since both thermistors are in the pipe, the fluid temperature affects their resistances
equally. Their placement in the bridge causes the resulting voltage changes to cancel each other.
Therefore the only voltage at the output is the one caused by the flow rate. Thermistor is shielded, so its
resistance is not affected by the flow.

18
Vortex Flow-meter
High Velocity Fluid

Meter
Flow Bore

Still Alternate
Fluid Vortices

Shear
Layer

In this sensor, an obstruction is placed in the center of the flow stream. As the fluid strikes the
obstruction, vortices or eddy whirlpools are created off the other side of the obstruction. They
actually alternate, one eddy on top, followed by an eddy on the bottom. A pressure sensor is mounted
in the side of the pipe wall that can sense the change in pressure as the eddy passes. The number of
vortices that the pressure sensor detects is directly proportional to the volumetric flow rate. The
sensor converts the pressure fluctuations into electrical pulse signals that provide a velocity
measurement. Then it converts the velocity into volumetric flow using the relationship Q=VxA.

This sensor would only be good for clean fluids, otherwise it would become clogged at the
obstruction.

19
Ultrasonic Flow-meter
The Doppler effect can be illustrated by the frequency change caused when a car approaches you
with its horn on. The sound is perceived at a higher pitch as the car approaches, because with each
second that the car moves toward you, the frequency of the sound waves hitting our ears is increased.
The sound waves are essentially more closely spaced. As the car passes us, the frequency is lower, and
the pitch will be lower. Therefore, we can say that the Doppler shift is proportional to the relative
velocity.

As current pulses are sent by an oscillator through a piezoelectric transducer, it vibrates and
produces sound waves that are transmitted upstream into the flowing liquid. Each ultrasonic wave is
reflected from particles or gas bubbles in the fluid back to a receiving element. The receiver is a
piezoelectric device that detects pressure fluctuations created by the pulsating sound waves. This
transducer converts the sound into electronic pulses that are processed by the measuring instrument
circuitry.

Because the fluid is moving toward the receiver, the frequency of the reflected pulse received is
higher than that of the transmitted pulse. The difference in frequency is proportional to the fluid
velocity. As the velocity increases, the received frequency is a lot higher than the fixed frequency of the
transmitter. Therefore, by measuring the frequency difference between the electrical pulses of the
oscillator and the pulses at the receiver, flow rate can be recorded by the meter.

Because the ultrasonic flowmeter is placed


outside the pipe, it is ideal for dirty liquids and
slurries.

20
Time of Flight Ultrasonic Flow-meter
DOWNSTREAM
TRANSMITTER
ACOUSTIC ACOUSTIC
OR UPSTREAM FLOW
BEAM BEAM
RECEIVER FLOW PROFILE
PROFILE

UPSTREAM TRANSMITTER DIRECTION DIRECTION


OR DOWNSTREAM RECEIVER OF ACOUSTIC OF ACOUSTIC
ECHO ECHO

(A) CLAMP-ON TRANSDUCER (B) WETTED TRANSDUCER (LARGE PIPE)

The previous Ultrasonic sensor requires particles for the sound waves to reflect off of. Therefore it
is useless for clean fluids. Time of flight ultrasonic flow meters work on the principle that the speed of an
ultrasonic sound wave will increase when measured in the direction of flow, and decrease when
transmitted against the flow. This is just like when you take a flight to Vancouver from Toronto. Going
against the wind, Toronto to Vancouver, always takes longer than the flight when you return back to
Toronto.

This sensor contains two transducers, one on each side of the pipe. An ultrasonic signal is sent from
the upstream detector to the downstream detector. As soon as the downstream detector receives the
signal, it records the time that the signal took to arrive, and sends another signal back to the upstream
transducer. The difference in time it takes for the signals to move in both directions is directly
proportional to the fluid velocity. The transmitter takes this information and converts it into a volumetric
flow rate.

The disadvantage to this sensor is that the fluid must be clean. Any particles in the fluid will distort
the ultrasonic wave and give inaccurate readings.

21
TABLE 1.
FLOWMETER SELECTION GUIDE
Required
Typical
Flowmeter Recommended Pressure Upstream Viscosity Relative
Rangeability Accuracy,
element Service Loss pipe, effect Cost
percent
diameters
Clean, dirty ±2 to ±4
Orifice liquids; some 4 to 1 Medium of full 10 to 30 High Low
slurries scale
±0.5 to
Slurries and Low to ±2
Wedge 3 to 1 10 to 30 Low High
Viscous liquids medium of full
scale
Clean, dirty
and viscous ±1 of full
Venturi tube 4 to 1 Low 5 to 20 High Medium
liquids; some scale
slurries
±1 to ±2
Clean and
Flow nozzle 4 to 1 Medium of full 10 to 30 High Medium
dirty liquids
scale
±3 to ±5
Pitot tube Clean liquids 3 to 1 Very low of full 20 to 30 Low Low
scale
Clean, dirty ±5 to ±10
Elbow meter liquids; some 3 to 1 Very low of full 30 Low Low
slurries scale
Clean, dirty
±1 to ±5
viscous
Target meter 10 to 1 Medium of full 10 to 30 Medium Medium
liquids; some
scale
slurries
±1 to ±10
Clean, dirty
Variable area 10 to 1 Medium of full None Medium Low
viscous liquids
scale
Positive Clean, viscous ±0.5 of
10 to 1 High None High Medium
Displacement liquids rate
Clean, viscous ±0.25 of
Turbine 20 to 1 High 5 to 10 High High
liquids rate
CLean, dirty
Vortex 10 to 1 Medium ±1 of rate 10 to 20 Medium High
liquids
Clean, dirty
viscous con- ±0.5 of
Electromagnetic 40 to 1 None 5 None High
ductive liquids rate
and slurries

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Dirty, viscous
Ultrasonic ±5 of full
liquids and 10 to 1 None 5 to 30 None High
(Doppler) scale
slurries
Ultrasonic ±1 to ±5
Clean, viscous
(Time-of- 20 to 1 None of full 5 to 30 None High
liquids
travel) scale
Clean, dirty
Mass viscous ±0.4 of
10 to 1 Low None None High
(Coriolis) liquids; some rate
slurries
Clean, dirty
Mass viscous ±1 of full
10 to 1 Low None None High
(Thermal) liquids; some scale
slurries
±2 to ±5
Weir Clean, dirty
100 to 1 Very low of full None Very Low Medium
(V-notch) liquids
scale
±2 to ±5
Flume Clean, dirty
50 to 1 Very low of full None Very low Medium
(Parshall) liquids
scale

1. If an orifice plate starts to deteriorate and the entrance to the hole starts to wear down and looks like the
diagram below, will the sensor provide a higher or lower measurement?

2.

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