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CHE184-1P Process Dynamics and Control

2nd Quarter AY 2016-2017

Determination of the Control Valve Resistance of the Inlet

Flow and Time Constant for a Liquid Level System
Ricky Jay C. Gomez1
Student, CHE 184-1P/C21, Mapa Institute of Technology, School of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry


Aside from thermal systems, other physical example of the systems following a first-order differential behavior is the
liquid level system. Assumptions considered in such system includes that the control valves in the inlet and outlet flow
streams offer resistance to the flow of the liquid, which depends on the opening of the valve. Liquids flowing at
laminar ranges shows a linear relationship between the volumetric flowrate, resistance and the head. The transfer
function for the liquid level system involves not just the time constant, but it also accounts for the resistance of the
valve. The time constant is a function of the area of the container or tank and the resistance of the valve. The resistance
can be determined using graphical solution. The inverse of the slope of the line when Qs(t) is plotted versus the step
input change, H(t), is the resistance. Time constant can be calculated using the determined resistance. The trend of the
data suggests that the height has an asymptotic relationship with time. Supposedly, the result should show a step input.
Since there is a lag, the trend shows a nonlinear relation. In order to linearize the data, the steady-state conditions are
only considered in this case. Using this, the required parameters can be easily calculated. The results can be compared
through calculating the theoretical values for the time constant and resistance. This is by adapting the assumption that
the time corresponding to a height that is 63% of the steady-state height is the time constant.

Keywords: time constant, lag, resistance, liquid level, transfer function.

INTRODUCTION of the assumptions for such system is that the

control valve offers resistance to the flow of
Liquid level system is one of the systems that
the liquid in the tank. Therefore, when there
follows a first-order differential equation
is sudden change in the resistance of the inlet
behavior. For this particular system, a tank of
flow (i.e. changes in the valve opening),
uniform cross sectional area is being
disturbance may enter the tank system. The
considered. In addition, both inlet and outlet
exit flow may also offer disturbance to the
flows are controlled by a control valve. One

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system for any changes in the resistance transfer function for this system is modified
caused by the valve. in such a way to also account the effect of the
resistance of the valve, shown in (2).

= (2)
() + 1

where = and R is equivalent to the

gain, K. For a liquid level with constant outlet
flow, the response function is shown in (3).
Figure 1. Single tank system with control
valves for both inlet and outlet streams.
() = + (3)
For a flow system at laminar range, the

resistance that correlates the flow and head

The forcing function considered in the
linearly is the linear resistance [1].
experiment is only for a step function. The

= (1)
response function for this input is shown in
(4), which is actually the theoretical height of
where qo is the volumetric flowrate the liquid in the tank.
(volume/time), h is the head and R is the
linear resistance.
() = () ( () ) (4)

The system used in this experiment was a

Step input change follows a decaying
single tank liquid level system wherein the
exponential response from the initial height
resistance is only offered by control valve in
to its final steady-state height. At t = , the
the inlet flow stream. Previously, the transfer
height is approximately equal to the 63% of
function for the mercury in glass
the steady-state height obtained. The triple of
thermometer involves parameter such as the
corresponds to a height that is 95% of the
time constant, . On the other hand, for a
steady-state height. These percentages hold
liquid level system aside from the time
for all first-order processes [2].
constant, the transfer function also considers
the effect of the resistance. In this case, the

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For this experiment, the time constant of the attaining it. From the initial height to the
single tank liquid level system and the steady-state height, various height readings
resistance of the inlet flow should be were also recorded at one-minute increment.
determined using a step input function. Also,
B. Determination of the resistance and time
the steady-state inlet flowrate, Qs(t) versus
constant for a step input.
the step input change, H(t) should be plotted.
From the calibrated initial steady-state

METHODOLOGY height, disturbance was allowed to enter the

system. This was done by a step input, where
I. Materials the volumetric flow rate in the inlet stream

The materials and equipment used in this was changed into other value by changing the

experiment were tape measure, graduated opening of the valve. From the time that the

cylinder, water container with faucet, bucket volumetric flow rate was adjusted into

and flashlight. The chemical used in this different setting, the timer recorded the time

experiment was tap water. required for the system to achieve a steady-
state height. Several data point were again
II. Procedures
gathered at every one-minute interval. The
A. Calibration of the initial steady-state steady-state height was again recorded when
height. the liquid level in the container was not
changing anymore.
Initially, the tank contains a certain amount
of water with an initial height. At a fixed III. Treatment of Results
valve opening, the water was allowed to flow
The data gathered in this experiment were the
inside the tank/container system while it is
different liquid heights at every one-minute
also simultaneously allowed to flow out
increment. From this, the steady-state
through the another valve just at the bottom
volumetric flow rate was also determined
part. The initial height changes, and a certain
getting a certain amount of volume and
height was achieved where there is no change
dividing it by the time required to achieve
occurring anymore, indicating that the height
that volume.
attained was at steady-state already. This
steady-state height achieved was recorded as
() = (5)

well as the corresponding time required in

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The resistance of the valve in the inlet flow RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS
was determined using the plot of Qs(t) versus
The different heights of the liquid inside the
H(t). The inverse of the slope of the generated
container and the corresponding time in
line in the plot is actually the resistance [3].
achieving such height are being summarized
in Table 1 for both initial and final step input
change in the system.

Table 1. Summary of the results gathered

from the experiment.
Initial Final
H(t), mm t, H(t), mm t,
min min
104 1 125 1
Figure 2. Qs(t) versus H(t) plot. 106 2 131 2
108 3 134 3
Using linear relationship, the time constant, 109 4 139 4
110 5 142 5
, was calculated by multiplying the area of
112 6 144 6
the container by the resistance of the valve. 114 7 148 7
115 8 152 8
= (6) 117 9 156 9
119 10 159 10
121 11 163 11
The height of the liquid in the tank is in mm, 123 12 168 12
125 13 171 13
the volumetric flow rate is in m3-min-1 and
125 14 175 14
the time is in minutes. 125 15 178 15
125 16 182 16
Also, theoretical height corresponding to the 183 17
time required for the steady-state height to 184 18
190 19
attain can be determined using (4). Another
194 20
approach in finding the time constant is 196 21
through applying the concept that the time 196 22
196 23
required to achieve 63% of the steady-state
height This could be a theoretical basis on The trend of the data suggests an asymptotic
time constant determination. relationship between the height and time
when achieving a steady-state height in the

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container. Supposedly, the ideal trend data 250

should be a literal step increase in the height

of the liquid in the container, but since there

H(t), min
is a lag in achieving the steady-state liquid
level, this results to an asymptotic trend. So 100

in order to linearize the step response, steady- 50

state condition was only considered in
determining the resistance and time constant, 0 5 10 15 20 25
so that there will be only two points to be t, min

plotted, one for the initial step and the other

one is for the final step. Figure 4. Step input response for the final
Using graphical representation, the step input
response for the initial and final step are The steady-state volumetric flow rate and the
being depicted in the succeeding figures. corresponding height for the initial and final
step are summarized in Table 2, where the
Qs(t) is in m3-min-1 and H(t) is in m.

H(t), mm

Table 2. Summary of the q(t) and h(t) for the
60 steady-state initial and final step.
q(t) h(t)
Initial 0.000309 0.125
20 Final 0.000594 0.196
0 5 10 15 20
t, min
The plot of Qs(t) versus H(t) is shown in
Figure 5 which has a linear relationship
Figure 3. Step input response for the initial
where the points are from the steady-state
conditions of the initial and final step.

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0.0007 For a comparative analysis, percentage error
0.0006 y = 0.004x - 0.0002
was calculated for the deviation of the actual
0.0005 R = 1
0.0004 values from the theoretical value of height

0.0003 and time constant.

0 0.05 0.1 0.15 0.2 0.25
H(t) Table 7. Comparative analysis on height.
Initial Final
Figure 5. Plot of Qs(t) versus H(t). 3 -1 0.000309 0.000594
Flowrate, m -min
Actual Height, m 0.125 0.196
0.119 0.186
Height, m
Table 6. Summary of the results. Error, % 4.8 5.6
R min-m-2 249.122807
min 11.9578947

Table 8. Comparative analysis on time

Comparing this time constant calculated to Value
the time constant determined in the previous Actual , min 11.9578947
experiment, this could be relatively high. It Theoretical , min 13
Error, % 8.02
can be also seen in figures 3 and 4 that there
is a significant length of time required in
achieving a change in height which is
From the preceding tables, minimal error was
relatively low in magnitude. The linear
present when actual height is compared to the
approximation is based on the assumption
theoretical height. In the case of the time
that if the operating conditions does not
constant, at 63% of the final steady-state
change too much, the actual curve will not
height, the corresponding time is considered
vary much compared to its tangent line.
the theoretical time constant. The percentage
Aside from this, the time constant increases
error for the comparison of the actual and
when the area of the container is being
theoretical time constants shows a much
increased. More delays will be observed for
higher error compared to the height basis.
bigger area of the container used.
Nevertheless, this could still be considered
since there is only small deviation between

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the actual and theoretical values for the time REFERENCES
[1] Coughanour, D. R. 1991. Process
Systems Analysis and Control.
McGraw-Hill, Inc.

For any control system, time constant is an [2] Perry, R. H. and Green, D. W. 2008.
Perrys Chemical Engineers
important parameter because it describes how
Handbook. The McGraw-Hill
delay the process will be. For the system used Companies, Inc. 8th Edition.
in the experiment, which is the liquid level [3] Seborg, D. E., Edgar, T. F. and
system, the time constant describes how Mellichamp, D. A. 2004. Process
Dynamics and Control. John Wiley &
much lag does the system experience in Sons, Inc. 2nd Edition.
achieving a steady-state liquid level when
such disturbance enters. The resistance of the
control valve in the inlet flow can be a source
of disturbance. This may vary when
resistance changes (i.e. change in the valve
opening). In the experiment proper, the time
constant shows significant value. It can be
seen in the H(t) versus t plot that the required
time to achieve the steady-state height of the
liquid in the tank is quietly large. Also, from
the initial and final step, the trend of data
shows a linear relationship, therefore
equations following a linear relationship can
be used in the calculation of the resistance
and the time constant for the system.

For theoretical considerations, the time

corresponding to the height that 63% of the
steady-state height is the time constant of the
system. This assumption holds for any first-
order system.

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