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1 Position, Level, and Displacement Sensors: Theory, Design, and Application Marek Trawicki and Kevin Indrebo Marquette

University Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering P.O. Box 1881 Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881 {marek.trawicki, kevin.indrebo}@marquette.edu ABSTRACT This paper presents the theory, design, and application of position, level, and displacement sensors. There is a short history of sensors and explanation of the differences and similarities between position, level, and displacement sensors presently used today. Potentiometers, capacitors, LVDT and RVDT, and fiber-optic sensors are studied for the position and displacement sensors, and resistive, capacitive, fiber-optic, float-type, and pressure / weight sensors are examined for level sensors. The principle of operation for each of the current technologies is detailed with equations and diagrams. Design considerations are given for the three different sensors along with a specific design example of a position sensor. Current applications are stated for the sensors with an application for level sensors implemented in industry today. The paper finishes summarizing the value of position, level, and displacement sensors for industrial and society life.

2 1. INTRODUCTION For over fifty-years, sensors have become a critical part of industrial and societal life [1]. The rich history of sensors involves individuals having a strong background in a wide variety of disciplines such as chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, materials, and engineering. Table 1 shows the four primary phases of sensor development that ranges from 1947 until the present time [2]. Phase Discovery Years 1947-1960 • • • Accomplishments Bipolar transistor (1947) Piezoresistive effect in Si and Ge (1954) First industrial applications of piezoresistive effect (1958) Strain gauges milled directly on silicon Batch processing of silicon strain gauges First high production sensor at National Semiconductor (1974) Ion implantation to make gauges Electrostatic bonding to glass Micron-sized features Complex structures Integration with electronics

Basic Technology Batch Process

1960-1970 1970-1980

• • • • •

Micromachining

1980-Present

• • •

Table 1: History of Sensors Sensors have been employed quite extensively in consumer products such as automobiles, appliances, electronics, and alarm systems, and they have been implemented by the government for pollution control of noise and vibration and detecting radiation from nuclear attacks by potential terrorists. In fact, sensors are normally combined together to form very complex systems. As an example, there are more than 50 sensors implemented for the proper operation of cars today [3]. Overall, sensors comprise a $12 billion industry in the United States [4]. Fundamentally, sensor devices receive a stimulus, signal, or measurand and respond with an electrical signal. Sensors are essentially then translators of a generally non-electrical value into an electrical value [4]. The sensor’s output signal may be in the form of voltage, current, or charge. Typically, sensors are implemented along with other

construction Domestic. commerce. appliances Distribution. The operating principles of the sensor. meteorology. angular displacement involves the angle between two coplanar vectors determining a displacement. Level sensing refers to the measurement of the amount of gas. transportation traffic control. or inductance. and References (Section 6). step-less sensing over a specified height range. The sensor can be designed to use simple electrical concepts such as resistance. it is only natural to discuss both of those sensors together with level sensors being completely unique from them. While continuous level sensing deals with smooth. There are essentially two categories of level sensing: continuous level sensing and discrete (point) level sensing. There are two main types of displacement sensors: linear displacement and angular displacement. Conclusion (Section 5). displacement.3 circuitry and components to construct systems for modern measurement instrumentation and controls. displacement. medicine Marine Manufacturing Recreation. discrete (point) level sensing involves the discrete sensing of the presence or absence of a gas. Position sensors measure the distance between a reference point and the present location of a target (object). The target’s position is located in space using distance and direction (angle) information for regular (Cartesian) or polar coordinates. performance evaluation. robotics. and level sensors. 2. security Energy. Due to displacement being a change in position. or solid. For each of the three different sensors. Agriculture Automotive Civil engineering. toys Military Space Scientific measurement Other Transportation (excluding automotive) Table 2: Field of Applications The measurement of position. Table 2 lists the most common field of applications for sensors [4]. Whereas linear displacement deals with displacement whose instantaneous direction remains fixed in nature. capacitance. and level of physical targets is basic for many of these applications: process feedback control. this paper is organized into the following sections: Principles of Operation (Section 2). impact the specifications and limitations of the sensor system. liquid. there are often many choices for implementation. liquid. and security systems [4]. or solid at a given height or location. Applications (Section 4). PRINCIPLES OF OPERATION When a sensor is designed to meet a specification. power Information. Displacement sensors measure the change in position of a body or point with respect to a reference point. finance Environment. or can make use of more complex mediums such . Design Considerations (Section 3). they have their own specific characteristics. To provide a comprehensive analysis into position. those which determine the method of transduction from stimulus to signal. telecommunication Health.

In most cases.1: Potentiometer circuit diagram. In this section. Vin is the supply voltage. indicating the position of the desired object. and level sensors are discussed. The contact is built to move according to the object of which the position is being measured. l. L Where L is the full scale output. Capacitors Another simple position or displacement sensing principle is based on capacitance [4]. . many of the principles of operation available for position. Capacitors are easy to design and manufacture. and Vout is the measured voltage.1. displacement. changing Vout. Position and Displacement Sensors 2. some of the most popular types of position and displacement sensors operate on simple electrical principles. the geometry can be changed by varying the distance between the capacitive plates. the displacement length. and work with many types of dielectric materials. Potentiometers As position and displacement sensors are found in many common systems. A potentiometer is a variable resistor. and so the placement of the contact on the resistive wire determines the total resistance. increases or decreases. As the contact moves. with a contact that can be caused to move mechanically. or the common area between the two plates. 2.1.1.4 as optical and acoustic phenomena. The capacitance of a single capacitor can be expressed by C= εA d . The relationship is expressed as l Vout = Vin . 2. A capacitive position sensor works by detecting a change in geometry of one or more capacitive elements. This system is depicted in Figure 2. and in the context of linear position and displacement sensors. is composed of a resistive wire that is connected to a dc voltage source.2. Figure 2.1.1. One of the simplest types of linear position sensors is based on a device known as a potentiometer [4]. making them desirable in many applications.

If the armature is in the central position. changing A. and the sensor gives great accuracy and resolution. though. or vertically.3. One of the plates can be connected to the desired object. and Rotary variable differential transformers (RVDT). as shown in Figure 2. an alternating .2. Linear variable differential transformers (LVDT). If it is the area that changes.2. changing d. however. Figure 2.b. the response is nonlinear. A is the area of the capacitor plates. Since this is undesirable. Therefore. and d is the distance between the two plates.c can be used to create a linear sensitivity.2: Circuit diagram for three different capacitance position sensors. In an LVDT [5]. the mutual inductance is equal between the primary and each secondary coil. If it is d that changes. When the armature moves. the sensor response is linear. however.1. 2. two secondary coils. such as is depicted in Figure 2. and can move horizontally. causing no voltage difference between e1 and e2.a.3. and does not tell which direction it has moved. and a movable ferritic armature between them. The measured capacitance will then describe the position of the object. The position of the armature determines the mutual inductance between the primary and each secondary. are useful because there is not physical contact between inductors. a figuration such as that seen in Figure 2. ensuring long life and repeatability of the sensor.5 where ε is the dielectric constant. the amplitude of the difference in voltages between e1 and e2 can accurately describe its position. because the amplitude of the output is based on the distance of the armature from its center position. LVDT and RVDT One of the most popular position or displacement sensors is based on inductive principles. there is a primary coil.2. as in Figure 2. One must be careful.

While an LVDT can measure linear displacements. The setup of the RVDT is similar to the LVDT. an RVDT [6] must be used if the displacement to be measured is angular. Figure 2. with the pivot point in the center position between the primary and secondary coils. In the Fabry . including the Michelson and Fabry Perot interferometers [7]. and the phase of the output will determine which direction the armature has moved [5]. Multiple types of interferometers have been developed.4: Circuit diagram for an RVDT 2.6 current is used as excitation.4. Fiber-Optic Sensors Interferometers based on fiber optic technology provide extremely precise position or displacement measurements.4.3: Circuit diagram for an LVDT with a primary coil and two secondary coils.1. Figure 2. except that the parallel iron core is replaced by a ferromagnetic rod that rotates. This configuration is depicted in Figure 2.

Other Position and Displacement Sensor Technologies The position and displacement sensors already described are some of the more useful sensor types. and the degree of rotation will affect the output of the sensor. c is the speed of light. see. The particular interference pattern can is dependent on the distance between the two mirrors and the wavelength of the light. m is the order of interference. If the coil has not rotated. 2. and reflecting back again. d. The number of interference “fringes” determines the distance. two partially silvered mirrors placed close together are used. Among the operating principles that are available are Hall-effect sensors.4].2. allowing detection of position by observing the interference pattern. For more information regarding these sensor types. r is the radius of the coil. and λ is the wavelength of the light. By studying the level sensor output. for example [1. between the two mirrors. One of the mirrors can be movable. The coil is allowed to rotate. and rotosyns. Vout and Vin are the output and input voltages. a beam of light. and provide complete constructive interference. piezoresistive sensors. As a light wave is sent through the cable. which is useful for aircraft and spacecraft. and l is the path length.7 Perot interferometer. is split into two beams that travel around a circular coil in opposing directions. but there are several other ways to implement position and displacement sensors. it is possible to . Any rotation however. 2. In this sensor. the two beams will be in phase. The rate of rotation can then be found using the equation ⎛V ⎞ cos −1 ⎜ out ⎟ c 2 ⎝ Vin ⎠ . where α is the angle of light projected into the mirrors. the input to the sensor. continuouslevel sensors are necessary in other applications [9]. will cause some deconstructive interference. bouncing back to the first mirror. The distance can be calculated by 2d cos α = mλ . is the ring laser gyro (RLG) [8].1. ω= 4π 2 r 2l where ω is the rate of rotation in radians per second. A relatively new sensor.5. This sensor can measure the attitude or orientation of the craft very precisely. which is the recombination of the two light beams. some of the light energy is reflected of the second mirror. This process causes an interference pattern. and the amplitude of he output light beam will be attenuated. the device measures the output level of all points between the extremes of full and empty on a continuous basis. Level Sensors While discrete-level sensors are well-suited for many applications. and magnetoresistive sensors. which can be viewed by focusing the light that is passes through the second partial mirror onto a screen. In continuous-level sensing applications.

If the liquid provides a conductive path between the two wire elements. float-type. Resistive Level Sensors The resistive level sensor consists of a resistive wire element or chain of seriesconnected resistors immersed in conductive liquid along with a low-resistance connection element.1. fiber-optic.5: Resistive Level Sensor Since the resistance connection element has a resistance that is much smaller than the resistance of the resistive element. the total resistance Rt will be reduced by an amount of ΔRL that is directly proportional to the liquid level L.e. and pressure / weight. The operation of the resistive level sensor depends on change in resistance.5 illustrates the basic resistive level sensor [1]. The circuit for making this measurement can be as simple as an ohmmeter or the combination of a voltage source V and calibration resistor R1. then it will short out the portion of the resistance wire that is immersed in the liquid. Figure 2. the total resistance Rt measured between points A and B is not affected by this low-resistance connection element. not empty) is defined as Rt' = Rt − ΔR L .2. The total resistance when the tank still has liquid (i. Due to the liquid level L being proportional to the term ΔRL. 2. Hence..8 determine the exact level of the liquid rather than knowing whether the liquid is above or below certain critical threshold levels. Figure 2. Rt' can be also used to measure L. capacitive. There are several types of (continuous) level sensors that include resistive. the output voltage V0 can be calculated by . Through basic voltagedivision.

If the range of temperature variation in small in size or if the temperature coefficient α for the resistive material is small enough to be neglected for the application. the capacitance of a coaxial cylindrical capacitor is found by . then the tank temperature must be measured with a correction factored into it. these factors change with temperature according to the relationship Rt '' = R0 (1 + αT ). Because the resistance is proportional to the length of the conductor and inversely proportional to its cross-sectional area. a thermistor laced in the tank can be connected either in series of parallel with Rt' to compensate for the change in temperature. and T is the temperature in °C. where the two conductive cylinders are coaxial. On the other hand. While many capacitors are based on parallel plates.9 VRt' V0 = . Capacitive Level Sensors From basic circuits. if the temperature of resistance is great enough to cause some alarm. capacitors store energy in an electrostatic field between two conductive plates. resistive level sensors have the limitation that the change in resistance of any resistor is a function of temperature. 2.6 (left) shows a typical cylindrical capacitor [1]. α is the temperature coefficient of resistance in Ω/°C. there will not be any need for a correction factor. where R0 is the resistance measured at 0°C in Ω. it is also possible to make a cylindrical capacitor. Figure 2. Figure 2. In some instances.2.2.6: Capacitance Level Sensor In this case. R1 + Rt' Unfortunately.

006. Even though the method of capacitance level sensing works well in many situations. the capacitance will be somewhere between the capacitance for a totally all-air or all-liquid dielectric. log 10 (r2 / r1 ) where C is the capacitance per unit length in picofarads per centimeter. the dielectric is composed of both air and liquid. .10 C= 0. K is the dielectric constant relative to the vacuum. If a coaxial cylindrical capacitor has an air dielectric. then the value of K is approximately 1. reference capacitor systems are used as liquid level sensors. Figure 2. Conversely when a non-conductive liquid fills the space between the two cylinders. As a result. In order to alleviate such a challenge. r1 is the inner cylinder radius. and r2 is the outer cylinder radius.6 (right) displays the capacitor configuration [1]. Figure 2.2416 K .7 shows a common reference capacitor [1]. which happens under temperature variations [1]. the capacitance increases dramatically in nature because the value of K for the liquid is significantly greater than of air. it fails when the dielectric parameters of the liquid change and the space above the liquid contains varying amounts of vapor from the liquid below. Due to the coaxial cylindrical capacitor being partially immersed in the liquid.

It always stays fully submerged in the liquid. L ref C ref Based on this relationship.11 Figure 2. . If the level of the liquid needed to cover the reference capacitor is Lref with Cmeas serving as the capacitance of the measured capacitor.3.8 illustrates a typical example of one with two fibers and a prism [4]. level of the liquid is determined by solving for the variable L with the other parameters already as known values. Figure 2. Fiber-Optic Level Sensors Fiber-optic sensors can be very useful as level detectors [4].7: Reference Capacitor System With this system. the small coaxial cylindrical reference capacitor Cref is mounted at the bottom of the tank. 2.2. then ΔC L = .

9: Float-Type Level Sensor Figure 2. these sensors are used most often in motor vehicles for the fuel gauge sender unit. Figure 2. When the float begins its rise upward. there is a sensor arm that is connected to the float and also to a pivot point.12 Figure 2.9 (left) uses a float-type sensor with a level arm. After the prism reaches the liquid level.2. Float-Type Level Sensors Float-type level sensors are one of the oldest forms of level sensors [1]. For this case. then they are simply lost to the surroundings. 2.4. The ultimate result is a much larger loss in the light intensity that is detected at the other end of the receiving fiber with the light intensity being converted into an electrical signal by any photodetector. If some of the light rays approach the prism’s reflective surface at angles smaller than the angle of TIR. the angle of TIR changes to a new value due to the refractive index of the liquid being higher than the refractive index of air. the transmitting fiber (left) sends most of its light to the receiving fiber (right) because of a total internal reflection (TIR) in the prism. Figure xx shows the type of float sensor implemented in vehicle fuel tank systems [1].8: Optical Level Detector The level detector makes use of the difference between the refractive indices of air and the measurand liquid. it causes the other end of the sense arm to rotate and move the actuator of a position or displacement sensor. When the sensor is above the liquid level. The output of the sensor is a current or voltage that is . Typically.

13 proportional to the liquid level. Figure 2.11 shows a pressure system [1].10 illustrates a common load-cell level sensor [1]. the float rises on a pipe using a float ball.2.5. Conversely. . load cells or other electronic weight sensors can be used to determine the level of liquid inside the tank [1]. the float generally does not move more than a few millimeters from its non-actuating to actuating position. 2.10: Load-Cell Level Sensor Specifically. The actual weight of the liquid is defined through the relationship WL = W − Wt . Pressure / Weight Level Sensors Assuming that the weight of the liquid in a vessel is known ahead of time. Figure 2. it can be entered into a differential amplifier’s negative port as a constant. In either case. Whereas a discrete-level system uses a permanent magnet embedded in the float to actuate a magnetic reed switch located at the critical level. the load cell produces a signal that represents the total weight W that consists of the sum of the liquid weight WL and the empty tank weight Wt. Since the tare is known for each individual tank. continuous-level systems use a position or displacement sensor actuated by a float to produce an output voltage or current proportional to the liquid level. where Wt is also known as the tare. the total weight signal W from the load cell is entered into the positive port of the different amplifier. Figure 2. Figure 2. In this situation.9 (right) also shows a variation of the float-type level sensor.

as the environment can affect the inductance of the sensor device. so can be used when the humidity is variable. Potentiometers. such as those based on induction. can wear down and the characteristics can change over time. For linear position sensing. Environmental effects must also be considered. Some sensor types. are not appropriate for large scales. desired precision. but for angular position sensing. external magnetic fields can interfere with inductive sensors. w 3. can cause problems.11: Pressure Level Sensor It uses a pressure sensor at the base of the vessel P1 and a second pressure sensor at the top to measure the ullage pressure P2. among other variables.1. Thus.14 Figure 2. this system depends on the specific weight w of the liquid inside the tank and is defined as L= P1 − P2 . on very small scales. DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS 3. and choice between angular or linear displacement must be considered when designing a system that senses position or displacement. and so may not be the best choice. inductive sensors are very useful because of their resolution.4 is especially useful for critical systems such as those found in aircraft and spacecraft because it has no moving parts. However.1. so they must sometimes be shielded. The RLG discussed in section 2. Some sensor types. capacitors are a good choice because of their simplicity. However. and is both reliable and durable. Temperature and humidity. and if these are not the characteristics to be sensed. Another important factor to be considered when designing a position sensor is durability. as the conductive head rubs against the resistive wire. Unlike . can affect the sensor function. such as variable differential transformers are non-contact sensors. on the other hand. thus allowing these sensor types to remain accurate and repeatable for a long time. the response is nonlinear. Position and Displacement Sensor Design Factors Many factors such as scale. so there is no friction to cause wear on the sensor. Inductive sensors are not very sensitive to humidity.

not all sensors will prove to be efficient. the person’s position will be determined . as the background noise. one must still be careful not to allow a significant amount of light intensity to come into contact with the flammable liquid. a sensor to determine the speaker’s angular position with respect to the microphone array is designed. which can be generated by many sources. any sensor that may ignite the liquid is unusable. In order to solve this problem.3 is only designed for a binary decision. or it may still ignite. thereby improving the recognition system’s performance. as the fibers are dialectric materials. Here. Capacitive sensors are not ideal choices if the tank is irregular in shape. if the tank is quite large. This particular task is difficult. For flammable liquids such as oil and gasoline.15 inductors. since resistance is a function strongly related to temperature. and the choice between continuous measurement and binary indicator sensing. Capacitive sensors. however. and can determine its angle. 3. certain sensor types may be more appropriate. if the sensor can find a significant object within 3 meters. capacitors are often quite sensitive to humidity. can be used to spatially filter the ambient noise. 3. Level Sensor Design Factors Some design considerations relevant to level sensor systems include liquid characteristics. Many sensor types. container or tank size. noise that is received by the array from different approaching angles can be attenuated. especially potentiometer sensors. Example Design of a Position Sensor for Speaker Tracking A scenario where an angular position sensor can be quite useful involves a speech recognition application in a somewhat noisy room. A very critical design factor concerns the type of liquid. contaminates the speech signal received by the recognition system. Therefore.2. above/below sensing. If the speaker moves around. it is assumed that the room is empty except for the person. which are common liquids that must be monitored in a tank. and often simpler sensor types such as potentiometers and capacitors are sufficient.3. and cannot sense the actual liquid level.2. but are more complex. However. If the speaker’s position in relation to the microphone array is known. This is one factor which makes certain fiber optic devices desirable for level sensing. such as electronic devices. will require more energy to give high precision. as opposed to discrete. such as potentiometers. The tank size and shape can effect the choice of level sensor as well. which usually consist of two to a dozen microphones. and all of the walls more than 3 meters away from the microphone array. Varying external temperature can affect many sensor types. have conducting parts which cannot reside inside the tank. as the relationship between capacitance and geometry is not easily modeled. the filtering system will not work unless it can adaptively track the speaker’s position. Also. Photoelectric sensors can be used to make a continuous measurement of the level. and typically situated in a linear formation. and so are not useful in environments with variable humidity. If the level must be measured continuously. for example. Microphone arrays. The photoelectric sensor discussed in section 2.

It will operate in conjunction with a rotary motor.32 m/s. 273 where C is the speed of sound in m/s. and a sensor maximum sensitivity of 60 dB attenuation of the ultrasonic transmitter signal.3 + . This setup is depicted in Figure 3. The minimum speed is then 331. To determine the minimum and maximum sound speeds. To find the attenuation factor. A requirement for the sensor is that it must provide a resolution of no worse than 13º. Since these numbers are approximately equal. it is assumed that the difference in temperature is negligible.16 successfully.26 m/s. Note that the speaker must stay within a 3 meter radius of the microphone array and sensor. we use the approximation .1: Basic diagram of angular speaker sensor in an empty room. and the maximum is 331. an ultrasonic sensor is chosen. The angle with the largest sensed echo energy is then chosen as the approximate position of the speaker.0254 1 + T . The frequency of the ultrasonic signal. Because of the large distances and open space.1. and the diameter of the ultrasound transmitter must be determined. sweeping an angle of nearly 180º and recording the level of echo return at each angle. The additional assumptions that will be made include a temperature range of 20 – 25 ºC. and T is the room temperature in ºC. we use the equation C (T ) = 331. Figure 3. and 20 ºC is used for further calculation. which is chosen because the microphone array spatial filter is unlikely to provide better than a 3-dB attenuation for a 13º angle.

and at extremely high temperatures of over 500°C. and inspection that use these sensors.67 kHz. we find a frequency of 30. As state previously.g. The range of measured dimensions and displacement extend from micrometers (e. and a transmitter diameter of approximately 5. concentricity. 4. APPLICATIONS 4.. but presumably acceptable. and eccentricity. Solving these equations gives a wavelength of 10. in nuclear reactor systems and vacuum of space. d λ = C (T ) / f .. Presently.17 α ( f ) = .. transmitter. as it is well outside of the range of human hearing. For instance.8 millimeters. where α is the attenuation of the ultrasonic waves in dB/m. where τ is the max sensitivity. Besides . pulsed or CW electromagnetic-energy remote sensors). While many designs for position and displacement sensors exist for room conditions.. and f is the frequency of the sound waves in kHz [10]. and size. to the object and back.. To find the diameter of the ultrasonic wave transmitter. shaft run-out. which is a fairly large. which is acceptable. manufacturing.g. laser interferometers) to millimeters (e. mechanical engineering. few types of displacement sensors) to anywhere between a few meters and hundreds of millions of kilometers (e.3 cm. there are many applications in materials. They are employed to measure linear or angular motion and verify or establish dimensions. most types of displacement sensors) to meters (e.g.g.032 f . so we must calculate the attenuation sensitivity threshold in decibels using the maximum sensitivity of the sensor of 60 dB attenuation by τ = 2(3α ( f )). and axial motion of rotating objects.1. some non-contacting types of sensors) to centimeters (e. position and displacement sensors are used in dimensional gauging to measure flatness. Position and Displacement Sensor Applications Position and displacement sensors are implemented in numerous applications [9]. and the multiplicative factor of 2 is present because the ultrasonic waves must travel 3 meters twice. Using the parameters given above. there are applications for the operation of these sensors underwater.g. we use the approximation [11] θ3dB ≈ where 70λ . thickness. the main lobe width (3 dB) must be less than or equal to 13º. We want the sensor to ignore any echoes that are returned from obstructions more than 3 meters away.

2.g. and slurries are very common measured and monitored liquids. They are mostly used in storage vessels like tanks and monitoring and information. In this case. Moreover. and in vessels for carrying out process operations like agitation. The most typical applications of level sensors involve tank measuring. beverages (alcoholic and nonalcoholic). wall thickness. coal. fresh and salt water. liquefied gases. reliability is a critical factor whose emphasis is on durability in an installation before removal for cleaning. Hydrostatic Tank Gauging (HTG) System Hydrostatic Tank Gauging (HTG) systems use a combination of temperature and pressure readings to determine the volume of liquid inventory (e. high. facility.. ship containers. dielectric constant. petroleum and refinery products. they are used in pipe and open ducts. index of refraction. plastic and wood chips. There are numerous examples of liquids whose levels are sensed by the level-sensors. Figure 4.1 displays the HTG system with a cylindrical vertical tank having an area A [1]. and propellant utilization in automobiles and spacecrafts. and overall process are important factors too. Between continuous-level and discrete-level sensors. 4. and solid waste. silos. hoppers and filling nozzles. filling and emptying of tanks. pharmaceuticals. soups.g. Level sensors can also be used to measure the level of powdered and granular solids such as grains.18 the in manufacturing and inspection.and low-level warning. granular food products. chemicals. .. and pH). hoppers. ore.1. and centrifuging. Lastly. the sensors monitor the position of control surfaces by sensing either the extension of a linear position or direct angular measurement. and cost. continuous-level sensors are the most widely used in industry. sand and gravel. The selection of a specific level sensor for a given application depends on feasibility. Feasibility is related to factors such as the physical and chemical nature of the material (e. 4. nature of the container (e. density. and other mineral powders. and location). On the other hand. position and displacement sensors are implemented in ships and aircrafts. beer) in a storage tank [1]. liquid leak detection. refurbishing. tobacco. blending. In addition. cost to the customers and safety to the personnel. and railway cars. position and displacement sensors are used not only for monitoring but also open-loop or closed-loop control.g. solid suspensions. reliability. discretelevel sensors are used in storage vessels and for level indications and warnings along with many automatic control systems. and accessibility to the potential location of the sensor.2. ceramic. conductivity. conductivity. viscosity.. For instance. or replacement. wood pulp. stickiness. With most of the cited measurements. syrups. Level Sensor Applications Level sensors are used in virtually all industries today for monitoring and also automatic control applications [9]. wastewater.

and P3 as the pressure sensors.19 Figure 4. Specifically. Since pressure is defined as force per unit area. the tank has four important sensors: TP1. In order to determine the volume and level of the liquid. the temperature sensor TP1 is needed to measure the temperature. the volume is more specifically stated by V = Lπ / D 2 . the measurements needed to accomplish such a task are the ullage pressure P3 and the overall pressure at the bottom of the tank P1. Since the volume somewhat varies with temperature.1: Hydrostatic Tank Gauging (HTG) System At any given time. where volume is in cubic meters. the level L and temperature T are compared with the parameters taken at a standard temperature of 60°F. The information can be determined from the relative pressures in the tank. pressure sensor P3 measures the ullage pressure of the tank. For some situations. Pressure sensor P1 is placed below pressure sensor P2 with their distance being h. and A is the cross-sectional area in square meters. which is the temperature sensor. Given that the cross-sectional area is equal to πD2/4. the volume of the liquid is proportional to the liquid inventory level since the diameter D of the tank has already been designed and determined ahead of time. As shown in Figure xx. and P1. which is the pressure of the gas or air in the space above the liquid. it is necessary to know the mass M of the liquid in the tank. the liquid will be at a level L that varies directly with the consumption and resupply. Then. L is the liquid column height in meters. there are a few basic measurement relationships that are important to the system. 4 Thus from this relationship. the force is given as . The volume of a cylindrical column of liquid of cross-sectional area A and height L is defined as V = LA. In this HTG system. P2.

It is possible to calculate the density using the differential pressure between pressure sensors P1 and P2 and distance between them through ΔP1− 2 . and many will be more . Of course. and volume of a liquid inventory in a tank. CONCLUSION In this paper. The standard volume is found by comparing the mass with the reference density δs with the mass by Vs = M δs . the level of the liquid inventory can be measured with the differential pressure ΔP1-3 as δ= L= ΔP1−3 δ . there are many other possible implementations for these sensors than those discussed here. 5. the temperature measured with sensor TP1. where force F is essentially the weight of the liquid. Because the pressure is a combination of the liquid static head pressure P1 and ullage pressure P3. the mass is actually given as M = (ΔP1−3 )(πD 2 / 4) . standard look-up tables can be used that allow for the determination of the present volume from the known standard volume Vs at 60°F.20 F = PA. the mass can be more explicitly stated by M = PA . h With the density. the HTG system represents a very simple but reliable approach to measuring the mass. displacement and level sensors was introduced and discussed. the differential pressure ΔP1-3. the concept and uses of position. level. Due to the volume V being a function of temperature T. G with G being the gravitational constant of 6. Overall. Several common and modern operating principles were detailed for both position and level sensors.67 x 10-11 N•m/kg2. density. Through the use of Newton’s F = MA relationship and substitution into the above equation. G The density δ of the liquid inventory is defined as mass per unit of volume.

2005. The theory.” Internet. http://hyperphysics.org/automag/sensors/.edu.acfr. Additionally. 2005. 1989.rdpe. Joseph J. 2005.html#RVDT. and extends beyond the limits of this paper.” Optics letters. but the scope of research and commercial production in this area is quite widespread. Accessed: June 27.21 appropriate than the ones presented in this paper in some applications. Accessed: June 15.htm.shtml. design.org/man/dod101/navy/docs/fun/rlg. Accessed: June 25.edu/hbase/phyopt/fabry. 26 (16). Accessed: June 17. NJ: Prentice Hall. REFERENCES [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] Carr.li-bachman. “Ring Laser Gyro.au/teaching/4thyear/mech4721Signals/material/lecture%20notes/06%20Time%20of%20F light%20Sensors. 2005. Accessed: June 19.phyastr. 2005. Fraden. Englewood Cliffs. http://www. . Sensors and Circuits.pdf. NY: Springer-Verlag.com/displacement/lvdt/lvdt-principles. a unique sensor design for use in speaker tracking with applications to spatial filtering for robust speech recognition systems was developed. “MEMS Sensors and Actuators. “Fabry-Perot Interferometer. New York.” Internet: http://www.” Internet. Handbook of Modern Sensors. 2005. 2004.net/eecs179/lectures/lecture05. 2004. displacement and level sensors were presented. Sarfraz Khaliq.com/articles/0299/acou0299/main. “Chapter 6: Time-of-Flight Sensors. and applications of these sensors that were discussed provides a solid introduction. Handbook of Transducers.geocities. Harry N. Accessed: June 20.fas. Introduction.” Internet. and Ralph P. “Sensors. Norton. “Displacement Sensors. “Choosing an Ultrasonic Sensor for Proximity or Distance Measurement.html#c1. Englewood Cliffs. Accessed: June 23. 6. NJ: Prentice Hall. Jacob. Mark.gsu. Fall. http://www. and some common applications of position. http://www. James. 2005.sae. 2005. Some of the important factors that influence the choice of sensor type and design were discussed.sensorsmag.htm. Stephen W. Accessed: June 14.usyd.” Internet: http://www. Bachman. and some examples of limitations and advantages for different sensor implementations were given. “Fiber-optic liquid-level sensor using a long-period grating.” Internet: http://www.” Internet. Tatam.com/styrene007/sensors/SEMINAR. 2005.pdf. “Linear Variable Differential Transformer Principle of Operation. 1993.” http://www.

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