This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Page 1 of 6
Part II: Flowmeter Selection Strategies
How to Choose the Right Technology for Gas Measurements
By John Frederick In this second installment of a two-part article, we address the topics typically covered in a comprehensive gas flow measurement course. The following describes common types of gas flowmeters and provides guidelines for their selection and usage. It also discusses the influence of basic gas properties on meter performance and examines methods and equipment for accurate calibration. Part one of this article covered similar topics in liquid flow measurement (Aug. 2010, pages 18-22). Basic Gas Laws In order to understand the characteristics of different types of flowmeters, it is important to first review some basic facts about how gas flows through a closed piping system. One of the key characteristics that can help in this regard is the Reynolds Number, which takes into account the relationship between the velocity of the flow, the size of the pipe, and the density and viscosity of the gas. Identifying the Reynolds Number relationship helps to understand how a gas flows through the pipe and how various flowmeters are influenced by the flow (Figure 1). Gas flow measurement is somewhat more complicated than liquid flow measurement because a gas is a compressible fluid and a liquid is a non-compressible fluid. When we say that a liquid is noncompressible, we mean that when the pressure is increased, the density changes only a negligible amount. A gas is compressible, so when the pressure changes, the density also changes. When the absolute pressure on a gas is doubled (if the temperature is held constant), the density will double. When a gas flows through a system, the pressure continually changes — resulting in density changes. These density changes must be taken into account in gas flow calculations. It is also important to make accurate measurements of pressure and temperature at the appropriate locations in the system in order to determine the true flow characteristics. The relationships among pressure, temperature, density, and flow are based on gas laws, which describe the relationship of pressure, temperature and volume for a fixed quantity of gas in a closed container. Two gas laws that are useful in understanding gas flow are Boyle’s Law (Robert Boyle) and Charles’s Law (Jacques Charles), named for the early experimenters who discovered their underlying principles. The gas laws are based on using absolute pressures and absolute temperatures. Boyle’s Law states that at a constant temperature, the volume occupied by a given quantity of gas varies inversely with the absolute pressure (Figure 2). Charles’s Law states that at a constant pressure, the volume occupied by a given amount of gas varies directly with the absolute temperature (Figure 3).
Figure 1. In order to understand the characteristics of different types of flowmeters, it is important to first review some basic facts about how gas flows through a closed piping system.
isolated quantities. Rate meters are those in which the gas passes though the primary element in a continuous stream. called the Perfect Gas Law. Figure 3. Quantity meters are those in which the gas passes through the meter in successive.com/articleprint.Part II: Flowmeter Selection Strategies Page 2 of 6 Figure 2.aspx?articleid=3694 2012-3-23 . Charles’s Law for gas. the http://www. Boyle’s Law for gas.flowcontrolnetwork. These two laws can be combined into a single law. The flowrate (amount of flow per unit of time) is derived from the interaction between the flow stream and the primary element. The previous equation can be rearranged to solve for each of the three quantities: Popular Flowmeter Designs Modern gas flowmeters can be classified into two general categories: quantity meters and rate meters. as follows: where: P = Absolute pressure T = Absolute temperature Q = Volume Subscripts 1 and 2 represent two different conditions. The most popular gas flowmeter designs in use by industry include: Differential-Pressure Flowmeters: When a gas flowing through a pipe encounters a restriction reducing the area of the pipe.
which is measured at a pressure tap on the side of the pipe. The transducers generate high frequency sound waves that travel across the pipe at the speed of sound in the gas. called a bluff body. There is a definite relationship between this pressure difference and the flowrate of the gas passing the restriction.Part II: Flowmeter Selection Strategies Page 3 of 6 gas must go faster past the restriction. nozzle and venture. Turbine Flowmeters: Turbine flowmeters are employed extensively for high-accuracy flow measurements. since dirt. Transit-time meters are only suitable for relatively clean liquids. Pressure taps are provided to measure the differential pressure developed by the flow going through these small passages. They will not work with very clean gases. The pickup may be a self-generating magnetictype or a carrier-excited nonmagnetic type. Doppler meters require some dirt to reflect the sound waves. called the Doppler shift. and the change in frequency is proportional to the velocity of the particle. across a diameter of the pipe. http://www. The tube is inserted into a pipe so the bent end faces into the flow. as well as very high and low temperatures. They can be built for use at very high pressures. pressure and volumetric flowrate is not the square-root relationship found in other differential-pressure flowmeters. the relationship between the differential Figure 4.aspx?articleid=3694 2012-3-23 . Ultrasonic Flowmeters: Ultrasonic flowmeters utilize piezoelectric transducers mounted on the pipe in contact with the gas. but a linear relationship. A pressure gauge connected to the other end of the tube reads the total or stagnation pressure of the flow impacting on the open end of the tube. The basic principle of operation of each of these is the same. A pickup assembly mounted on the outside of the meter body generates an electrical signal when the rotor turns and produces one electrical pulse as each rotor blade passes the pickup. Under laminar flow conditions. The frequency can be measured in several ways. Doppler meters send a sound beam into the flow stream where it is bounced or scattered by a particle of dirt. These vortices. which can be used to create a flow measuring device by purposely installing a restriction with known characteristics into the pipe. called von Kármán vortices (Theodore von Kármán). are generated at a frequency proportional to the flowrate of the gas past the bluff body. The difference between the total pressure and the static pressure is called the velocity pressure and is related to the flow velocity at the tube opening. This increase in speed results in a difference between the pressure upstream of the restriction and the pressure downstream of the restriction. The transit-time in both directions is measured and the time difference is proportional to the average flow velocity along the sonic path. including pressure sensing. Vortex-Shedding Flowmeters: Vortex-shedding flowmeters are made by installing a metal bar. Turbine flowmeters have a large installed base and remain a high accuracy solution for gas applications. Establishing the relationship between flowrate and differential pressure enables measurement of an unknown flowrate in the pipe. A turbine flowmeter has a rotor suspended on low-friction bearings in a meter body in such a way that the rotor can spin freely as the gas passes through the device. and by detecting modulation of an ultrasonic beam. They are made in sizes from ¼” to over 24 inches in diameter. Two basic ultrasonic meter principles are used: transit-time and Doppler. Bluff bodies are made in a variety of shapes to produce the desired operating characteristics. This results in the creation of swirls or vortices in the flow. Transit-time meters have two or more pairs of transducers that alternately send signals downstream and then upstream. Pitot Tube Flowmeters: A pitot tube flowmeter is a small-diameter tube with one end bent 90 degrees to the stem of the tube. The passages are designed to produce a Reynolds Number small enough (less than 2000) to always produce laminar flow. which form first on one side of the bluff body and then on the other side. but the basic shapes are different.flowcontrolnetwork. The meter’s signal can be used to measure the flowrate at any given time or the total amount of flow over a period of time (Figure 4). Differential pressure or differential head flowmeters fall into three general categories: orifice. temperature sensing. The reflected signal will experience a frequency shift.com/articleprint. Laminar Flow Elements: Laminar flow elements are made with one or more small passages through which gas flows. This total pressure is greater than the static pressure. or can be mounted on the outside of the pipe (clamp-on transducers). particles and gas bubbles can disperse the sound signals. The bluff body creates an obstruction so that the flow must go faster in order to pass.
Smooth Approach Orifice (SAO). When air passes over your arms. By using a regulated pressure supply. which is a heat transfer of energy from your warm body to the air molecules that impinge on your skin surface. by design. An analogy would be the human body. Sonic Nozzles. and your brain.flowcontrolnetwork. resulting in less pressure loss. the number of possibilities can be reduced and the final selection can be made based on the remaining factors. If your brain included a calorie meter. Figure 5. 5 & 6). there will be a heat energy transfer until the two bodies obtain a temperature equilibrium. Frequently employed as standards for measuring critical gas flow. If two objects of different temperatures are placed in contact with each other. Common Application Criteria The choice of a flowmeter for a particular gas process involves an analysis of many factors. a constant volumetric flowmeter. What are the flow conditions? • Measuring flowrate or total flow or both • Normal flowrate • Minimum and maximum flowrate • Minimum and maximum temperature http://www. the sonic-flow Venturi has been used as a reference meter. After evaluating the major application criteria. Jean Claude Barré de Saint Venant and Pierre Laurent Wantzel developed a general equation of the discharge of fluids from apertures by which the existence of a sonic-flow limit could be inferred. Your brain controls your body temperature at a constant 98 F. Figure 6. Thermal Flowmeters: Thermal flowmeters function on the principle of measuring heat transfer. which instantly senses the skin heat loss and tells your body to burn more calories to maintain a constant temperature. In recent years. Sonic Nozzles are used primarily in the aerospace industry and for flow transfer standard calibration systems. SAOs are commonly used in the automotive industry for measuring exhaust flow.com/articleprint. A form of a Venturi that offers excellent stability while maintaining its original calibration. Julius Weisbach observed the phenomenon that the mass rate of a gas through a nozzle reaches a maximum directly proportional to the inlet. it could provide an indication of air flowrate. where the Delta T is a function of flow. Also known as a Critical Flow Venturi. This chill is caused by the temperature of the wind and by the mass of wind molecules taking heat energy away as the cooler air crosses your skin surface. Some or all of the following considerations should be taken into account when choosing what flowmeter to use: 1. If you stand in the wind and bare your arms by removing your jacket.aspx?articleid=3694 2012-3-23 . you will feel chill on your arms. as a transfer standard.Part II: Flowmeter Selection Strategies Page 4 of 6 Critical Flow Venturis: In 1839. because skin heat loss is proportional to the number of air molecules crossing your skin surface. from studies of Daniel Bernoulli’s and Giovanni Battista Venturi’s works. and as a control for regulating the flow of gas (See Fig. In 1866. What type of gas is to be metered? • Clean or dirty • Corrosive or noncorrosive 2. your skin temperature is reduced by the thermal transfer of body heat to the air molecules. SAOs provide high-efficiency recovery. these instruments are. Nature wants everything to exist in a state of equilibrium. the Sonic Nozzle becomes a precision mass flowmeter. unless mechanically abused.
time principle of operation is used for most high-accuracy gas meter calibrations. What are the performance requirements? • Accuracy • Is accuracy required in all conditions? 5. Flowmeters are recalibrated periodically for quality assurance and are also recalibrated after being repaired. time gas flowmeter calibrators are the Bell Prover and the Glass-Tube Piston Prover. The volume and time measurements establish the measured volumetric flowrate of the gas. accuracy is not critical. operating temperature and pressure. but they are highly specialized and are not very practical for most calibration work. the volume vs.Part II: Flowmeter Selection Strategies Page 5 of 6 • Minimum and maximum pressure 3. Measurements of the absolute pressure and temperature of the collected volume of gas inside the calibrator allow calculations of all required flow parameters (Figure 8). and whenever flow measurement is related to the sale of product. The precision of a flowmeter is limited to the accuracy of the calibration equipment used.com/articleprint. What are the cost factors? • Initial cost of primary and secondary instrument • Cost of accessories • Installation cost • Reliability vs.flowcontrolnetwork. meters must be calibrated to the very best possible accuracy. after the gas has passed through the flowmeter. National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST). Some weight vs. and the type of the flow medium and viscosity. In some industrial applications. http://www. electronics. aerospace. The most common volume vs. Their calibration services take into account key factors affecting flowmeter performance. Major independent flow laboratories offer flowmeter calibration services meeting both end-user and OEM production requirements. however. What are the install conditions? • Pipe size • Reynolds Number • Is there room for adequate length of piping? • Are flow conditioners needed? • Is pipe vibration a problem? • Is flow steady or pulsating? 4. When it comes to flow calibration equipment. (Figures 7 & 8). in many instances. such as orientation of the meter.aspx?articleid=3694 2012-3-23 . Some of these applications are found in military. maintenance cost • Energy cost for pumping • Availability of parts and repair service • Compatibility with existing equipment Choosing a Calibration Solution Many gas flowmeters require individual calibration to meet the required accuracy.S. time gas calibrators have been made. These labs verify flowmeter accuracy by comparing the meter with a primary flow standard traceable to the U. Both calibrators are designed to collect a precise volume of gas for a measured length of time.
1 SCFM to 1. Navy. ext.com http://www. The gas is collected and the resulting temperature and pressure are recorded. The starting pressure and temperature are recorded. John can be reached at john.com or 480 948-3789. Glass Tube Low Flow Piston Prover provides primary standard calibrations from 0. holding senior technical positions with the U. collection tank. and a critical flow Venturi (CFV). John has authored numerous papers on flow measurement. The diverting valves are switched.000035 SCFM to 1 SCFM with an uncertainty of +/-0. John earned a bachelor’s degree in Physical Science from the State University of New York and a master’s degree in Business Administration from Central Michigan University. The vacuum pump is used to remove the gas from the collection tank. and Vice President of Business Development. Then. For the past 14 years. calibrator. or PVTt. Another type of volume base primary flow standard for gas is the Pressure Volume Temperature Time. pressure and temperature sensors. using the Real Gas Law. allowing gas to enter the collection tank. NIST and other laboratories have used PVTt systems as primary gas flow standards for more than 30 years. John has focused on flow measurement in various positions at Flow Dynamics. Figure 8. 16.000 SCFM with an uncertainty of +/-0. www.2 percent as stated on NVLAP Certificate of Accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025:2008 register to Flow Dynamics NVLAP Lab Code: 200668-0. valves for diverting the flow. Lockheed Martin. holds several patents on flow measurement technologies.frederick@flow-dynamics.S. John Frederick has worked in precision metrology for the past 27 years.com/articleprint. including Calibration Laboratory Manager. and teaches flow measurement and measurement uncertainty courses.2 percent as stated on NVLAP Certificate of Accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025:2008 register to Flow Dynamics NVLAP Lab Code: 200668-0. vacuum pump.flowcontrolnetwork. Vice President of Engineering. and Flow Dynamics Inc.aspx?articleid=3694 2012-3-23 .Part II: Flowmeter Selection Strategies Page 6 of 6 Figure 7.flow-dynamics. which isolates the meter under test from the pressure variations in the downstream piping and tank. High Volume Bell Prover provides primary standard calibrations from 0. The PVTt system consists of a flow source. the volume of gas may be calculated with reasonable accuracy.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.