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Flow measurements account for a very high percentage of process variables measured in the
chemical processing industries. It is the most important variable in plant operations. Plant
material balances, quality control & operation of continuous processes will be impossible
without flow measurements. Important applications range from blood flow rates in human artery
to measurement of flow of liquid oxygen in a rocket.
Flow of material in a process or system can be measured by a variety of methods depending
upon the material & its condition, the type of flow, volume, range and rangeability, pressure &
temperature range, accuracy needed & control required.
Fluids may be of different types: clear or opaque, clean or dirty, wet or dry, erosive or corrosive.
Fluid streams may be multiphase, vapor, liquid or slurries. Flow may be laminar or turbulent.
Viscosities may vary, pressures may vary from near vacuum to many times atmospheres, and
temperatures may vary from cryogenic to hundreds of degree of Celsius. Flow arte requirements
may vary from 1:1 to 100:1 or even greater.
For a particular application the characteristics & properties that needed to be considered are
Viscosity, Density, Compressibility, Temperature, Pressure and type of flow (laminar or

Laminar Flow: When fluids moving through uniform conduits are at low velocities, motion of
individual particles in the fluid is parallel to conduit walls. Velocity is greatest at centre &
theoretically zero at the walls. Such a flow is called LAMINAR flow
Turbulent Flow: As flow rate increases, particle motion becomes more random & complex.
This change in the nature of flow happens gradually (approximate velocity) at Critical
Velocity. Such a flow is referred to as turbulent flow.
Reynolds Number (

: A dimensionless quantity for representation of flow.

Velocity of flow (

) ; Diameter of the pipe (m)

Density of the fluid (

) ; Viscosity of the fluid (


Reynolds number upto 2100 Laminar Fluid flow
Reynolds number greater than 4000 Turbulent Fluid flow
Reynolds number between 2100 & 4000 laminar or turbulent


1. Inferential Type Flow is not directly measured but inferred from measurement of other
related quantities (pressure, temperature, etc). Information obtained from such sensors is
converted into velocity. This velocity in conjunction with area of cross section is used for
volumetric flow rate. Different Inferential Methods are as follows

Head Type: Flow rate is inferred from differential pressure measurements across an
engineered obstruction/constriction.
Variable Area/Rotameter Type: Flow rate is inferred from a displacement of an object
that results from balance of weight force against a velocity force
Magnetic meter: Flow rate is inferred from a velocity
Turbine meter: Flow rate is inferred from a velocity proportionality factor.
Target meter: Flow rate is inferred from force measurement
Thermal Flow meter: Flow rate is inferred from change in thermal conductivity.
Swirl meter: Flow rate is inferred from temperature/pressure oscillations.
Sonic meters: Flow rate is inferred from noise level / Doppler effect.

2. Positive Displacement Type: This type of flow meters basically capture and release a fixed
volume of fluid by some kind of pumping action performed by a reciprocating piston or
rotary vane or lobe or a flexible diaphragm. These provide mass rates only when density
remains constant.

3. Mass Measurement methods: Mass flow rates are obtained by measuring volume from
volume flow meters and multiplying it by density. Can be used only if pressure temperature
corrections are applied.

VARIABLE HEAD FLOW METERS (Obstruction type meters)
Produce pressure differential (head) across a suitable constriction to flow of fluid. Orifice Plates,
Venturi tubes, Flow Nozzles, Pitot Tubes, Annubars & Weirs etc. . .


Ultrasonic refers to the fact that in practice, pressure disturbances are usually short bursts of sine
waves whose frequency is above the range of audible human hearing (typically 1MHz). Hence it
is a kind of acoustic energy flow meter!
Two kinds of Ultrasonic flow meters are shown below
Transit Type Ultrasonic Flow meter
Doppler Shift Ultrasonic Flow meter

1. Transit Type Ultrasonic flow meter
An ultrasonic flow meter uses transmitters & receivers of acoustic energy. Piezoelectric crystals
are used for the purpose.

Figure 1: Transit type ultrasonic flow meter
Electrical energy in the form of a short burst of high frequency is applied to the crystal causing it
to vibrate. If the crystal is in contact with the fluid, vibration is communicated to the fluid and
propagated through it. The receiver crystal is exposed to these pressure fluctuations and it
responds by vibrating. This vibrating motion produces an electrical signal proportionally.
Transmitter emits an ultrasonic pulse that is received at a time later.
T & R are transmitting & receiving crystals. They are either pressed to the exterior of pipe of
immersed in the liquid so that signal is transmitted through the liquid

Transit time of the signal in the direction of flow is given by,


The phase shift of this sinusoidal signal (frequency f) is given by,

Distance between transmitter & receiver; m
Velocity of sound propagation in a medium; m/s
Linear velocity of flow; m/s

When signal is travelling in a direction opposite to flow, transit time is given by,


And its phase shift is given by,

Velocity is hence either determined by measuring the transit time or phase shift

Difference in transit times is given by

Usually c>>v and therefore,

Transit time is linearly proportional to flow velocity

2. Doppler Shift type flow meter
This is another class of ultrasonic flow meter that works on the principle of Doppler Shift.
It is a kind of acoustic flow meter with a difference that it employs Doppler shift principle.

Ultrasonic meters usually require relatively clean fluid so as to minimize signal attenuation &
dispersion but Ultrasonic Doppler flow meters will not function unless sufficient reflecting
particles / bubbles are present!

Ultrasonic Doppler flow meters measure the Doppler shift resulting from reflecting an ultrasonic
beam off the particulates in flowing fluid. The frequency of the transmitted beam is affected by
the movement of the particles. A signal of known ultrasonic frequency is transmitted through the
fluid which is assumed to have a uniform profile velocity. Solids, bubbles or any discontinuity in
the fluid reflects back the signal to the receiver. Because of liquid velocity there will be a
frequency shift at the receiver proportional to the velocity v. This shift in frequency is given by

transmitter & receiver frequencies respectively

No obstruction to flow
Output is insensitive to variations in viscosity, density, temperature
No moving parts
Linear relationship between output & input
Used for bidirectional flow
Main disadvantage is complexity & relatively high cost of the meter. Also limited industrial

The V-Cone is a differential pressure type flow meter. It is centrally-located inside the tube. The
cone interacts with the fluid flow, reshaping the fluids velocity profile and creating a region of
lower pressure immediately downstream of itself. The pressure difference can be measured via
two pressure sensing taps. One tap is placed slightly upstream of the cone, the other is located in
the downstream face of the cone itself. The pressure difference can then be incorporated into a
derivation of the Bernoulli equation to determine the fluid flow rate.

For a constant flow, the pressure in a pipe is inversely proportional to the square of the velocity
in the pipe. Simply, the pressure decreases as the velocity increases. For instance, as the fluid
approaches the V-Cone meter, it will have a pressure of

. As the fluid velocity increases at the

constricted area of the V-Cone, the pressure drops to

. Both


are measured at the V-

Cones taps using a variety of differential pressure transducers. The DP created by a V-Cone will
increase and decrease exponentially with the flow velocity.
It is a kind of flow visualization method that is non-disturbing & non-invasive in nature (does not
disturb the fluid flow). It detects changes in the optical properties related to fluid flow. It is an
Optical Energy/Radiation based flow meter that works on Doppler Shift principle.
Working Principle
Focusing laser beams at the point where velocity is to be measured and then sensing with a
photodetector the light scattered by particles carried along with the fluid as it passes through the
laser focal point. Velocity of particles (equal to fluid velocity) causes Doppler Shift of frequency
of scattered light & produces a photo detector signal related to the velocity. Hence LDA
measured the velocity of the scattering particles. Usually the particles present in the liquid are
sufficient & there is no need to introduce artificial trace particles.


Construction & Working
A Differential Doppler (Fringe Mode) LDA is shown below. It consists of a Helium-Neon gas
laser, two coated optical flats, a pair of focusing lens, a photo sensor, a signal processing unit & a
display or recording device.
The He-Ne laser operates at a wavelength of 632.8nm. The laser beam is split into two equal
intensity parallel beams with the help of two coated optical flats. A focusing lens focuses the
beams at a point F where the velocity of the fluid is to be measured. The scattered beam of light
moving through the fringe pattern is selectively collected by a combination of lens & pin-hole
aperture. It is then detected by a photo sensor. The light is simultaneous processed by a signal
processing unit from which flow velocity data is obtained. Light intensity versus time is
displayed on an oscilloscope.
The method measures velocity component perpendicular to the fringe pattern. The frequency f
of the electric signals produced by a particle moving across dark & light fringe pattern is given


Wavelength of the laser beam
V velocity component

Measures velocity directly & not by inference
Flow remains undisturbed as measurement is non-invasive
Instrument has high frequency response (order of MHz)
Very high accuracy (0.2%)
May be used for measurement of flow for liquids as well as gases

Involves the use of transparent channels
Some tracer particles have to be present in the fluid & therefore cannot be applied for
clean liquids
High cost & high degree of accuracy


2 kinds of Mass flow meters are
Radiation Type (Combinational Mass flow meters
Angular Momentum type mass flow meter

1. Combination Mass Flow Meter
The key working component in this combinational design is the multiple-input transmitter which,
in addition to a radiation-type density input, accepts a flow measurement signal from any
volumetric flow meter. Based on these two inputs, the microprocessor-based transmitter
generates an output signal that relates to mass flow.

The two main components of this combinational mass flow system are
1. Volumetric flow meter: This measures the volumetric flow of the liquid. It could be a
Ultrasonic Doppler flow sensor or a magnetic flow sensor
2. Density flow meter: This measures the density of the flow stream. An example is a
Gamma Ray Densitometer

Figure 2: Combinational Mass Flow meter
The above is the picture of a combination mass flow meter that utilizes a GAMMA-RAY
Densitometer & a MAGNETIC flow meter.
a). Gamma ray Densitometer
The beam is shaped by using a collimator that shields the radiation in other directions than
that of the beam. The attenuation of photons is measured along the narrow beam path in the

Figure 3: Gamma Ray Densitometer

b). Magnetic flow meter
These flow meters use a magnetic field applied to the metering tube, which results in a
potential difference proportional to the flow velocity perpendicular to the flux lines. The
potential difference is sensed by electrodes aligned perpendicular to the flow and the applied
magnetic field (as shown in the combinational mass flow meter above). The magnetic flow
meter requires a conducting fluid and a non-conducting pipe liner. The electrodes must not
corrode in contact with the process fluid.

2. Angular Momentum type Mass Flow meter
From Newtons law of angular motion & definition of angular momentum it can be deduced that,
mass flow of fluid can be determined if an angular momentum is introduced into the fluid stream
and measurements are made of the torque produced by this angular momentum and of the fluids
angular velocity. 2 such angular momentum based flow meters are
Impeller Turbine Configuration
Twin Turbine Configuration

a. Impeller Turbine Configuration

Figure 4: Impeller turbine configuration
The impeller-turbine-type mass flow meter uses two rotating elements in the fluid stream, an
impeller and a turbine. Both elements contain channels through which the fluid flows. The

impeller is driven at a constant speed by a synchronous motor through a magnetic coupling and
imparts an angular velocity to the fluid as it flows through the meter. The turbine located
downstream of the impeller removes all angular momentum from the fluid and thus receives a
torque proportional to the angular momentum. This turbine is restrained by a spring that deflects
through an angle that is proportional to the torque exerted upon it by the fluid, thus giving a
measure of mass flow.

b. Twin Turbine Configuration
Another angular-momentum-type device is the twin-turbine mass flow meter. In this instrument,
two turbines are mounted on a common shaft. They are connected with a calibrated torsion
member. A reluctance-type pickup coil is mounted over each turbine, and a strong magnet is
located in each turbine within the twin-turbine assembly. Each turbine is designed with a
different blade angle.

Figure 5: Twin turbine configuration

It is known that angular momentum is a function of mass flow rate & this angular momentum
may be measured by measuring the torque.
Now, because of the different blade angles, turbines may rotate at different angular velocities.
However, motion of the turbines is restricted by the coupling torsion member. Hence the entire
assembly rotates in unison at some average velocity. An angular phase shift is developed
between the two turbines which is a direct function of the angular momentum of the fluid. The
angle developed between the two turbines is also a direct function of the twist or torque exerted
by the system. This angle is measured by a unique method.
As each turbine magnet passes its own pickup coil, the coil generates a pulse. The pulse from the
upstream turbine is used to open a so-called electronic gate, while the pulse from the downstream
turbine closes this gate. An oscillator is placed in the electronic circuit, and the oscillations are
counted while the gate is opened. The number of oscillations is thus a function of the angle
between the two turbines. Knowledge of the angle gives the value of torque, which, in turn, is
proportional to mass flow rate.