Fundamentals of Flow Meter

1.0 Overview Flow measurement is essential in many industries such as the oil, power, chemical, food, water, and waste treatment industries. These industries require the determination of the quantity of a fluid, either gas, liquid, or steam, that passes through a check point, either a closed conduit or an open channel, in their daily processing or operating. The quantity to be determined may be volume flow rate, mass flow rate, flow velocity, or other quantities related to the previous three. The instrument to conduct flow measurement is called flowmeter. The development of a flowmeter involves a wide variety of disciplines including the flow sensors, the sensor and fluid interactions through the use of computation techniques, the transducers and their associated signal processing units, and the assessment of the overall system under ideal, disturbed, harsh, or potentially explosive conditions in both the laboratory and the field. 1.1 Categorization Flowmeter By Technology Employed Technology 1. Coriolis 2. Differential Pressure 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. Magnetic 10. Positive Displacement Nutating Disc 11. 12. 13. 14. Target 15. Thermal 16. Turbine 17. Ultrasonic 18. 19. Variable Area 20. 21. 22. Vortex 1.2 Installation Flowmeters need to be integrated into existing/planning piping system to be useful. There are two types of flowmeter installation methods: inline and insertion. The inline models include connectors to the upstream and downstream pipes while the insertion models insert the sensor probe into the pipes. Most flowmeters need to be installed at a point where the pipes on both sides remain straight for a certain distance. For inline models, the inner diameter of the pipes have to be the same as the flowmeter's line size. Between the flowmeter and the pipes, there are two types of mostly used connecting methods: flanged and wafer. Among different types of connection methods, insertion design is more flexible and more economical in larger line sizes while inline design is more confined and usually easier to calibrate. The wafer connection is usually less expansive than flanged connection. However, it may require extra parts to allow the threading with pipes at both ends. Doppler Transit Time Movable Vane Rotameter Weir, Flume Oscillating Piston Oval Gear Roots Elbow Flow Nozzle Orifice Pitot Tube Venturi Wedge Instrument Pressure Pressure Pressure Pressure Pressure Pressure Electronic Mechanical Mechanical Mechanical Mechanical Mechanical Mechanical Electronic Electronic Pressure Pressure Pressure Mechanical Measure Pressure Pressure Pressure Pressure Pressure Pressure Pressure Volume Volume Volume Volume Force Volume Acoustic Waves Acoustic Waves Pressure Pressure Pressure Frequency Result Mass Volume Volume Volume Volume Volume Volume Volume Volume Volume Volume Volume Velocity Velocity Volume Velocity Velocity Volume Volume Volume Velocity

Miscellaneous Acceleration

Pitot Tube (Averaging) Pressure

Electromagnetic Field Velocity

Miscellaneous Heat Transfer

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This twist results in a phase difference (time lag) between the inlet side and the outlet side and this phase difference is directly affected by the mass passing through the tube. the fluid flowing through the tube will induce a rotation or twist to the tube because of the Coriolis acceleration acting in opposite directions on either side of the applied force. it twists in the opposite direction. the liquid flowing out of the meter resists having its vertical motion decreased by pushing up on the tube. usually less than 2. The flow is guided into the U-shaped tube. when the tube is moving upward during the first half of a cycle. usually around 80 Hz. Please also note that the vibration of Coriolis flowmeters has very samll amplitude. Pros and Cons • Pros: . and pressure conditions. the fluid flowing into the meter resists being forced up by pushing down on the tube. the vibration is commonly introduced by electric coils and measured by megnetic sensors. Finally. They were not seen in industrial applications until 1980's. A more rescent single straight tube design is available to measure some dirty and/or abrasive liquids that may clog the older U-shaped design. horseshoe-shaped. or tennis-racket-shaped (generalized U-shaped) flow tube with inlet on one side and outlet on the other enclosed in a sensor housing connected to an electronics unit. On the opposite side. Coriolis meters are available in a number of different designs.Higher accuracy than most flowmeters 2 of 12 . and the frequency is near the natural frequency of the device. An advantage of Coriolis flowmeters is that it measures the mass flow rate directly which eliminates the need to compensate for changing temperature.5 mm (0.1 in). This action causes the tube to twist. A popular configuration consists of one or two U-shaped. When the tube is moving downward during the second half of the vibration cycle. viscosity.2. For example.0 Coriolis flowmeters Coriolis flowmeters are relatively new compared to other flowmeters. When an osillating excitation force is applied to the tube causing it to vibrate.

The pressure difference before and after the oriffice plate is used to calculate the flow velocity.Low pressure drop . • Nozzle: A nozzle with a smooth guided entry and a sharp exit is placed in the pipe to change the flow field and create a pressure drop that is used to calculate the flow velocity. molten sulphur. These devices guide the flow into a section with different cross section areas (different pipe diameters) that causes variations in flow velocity and pressure. By measuring the changes in pressure. the restricted cross section area causes an increase in velocity and decrease in pressure.Capable of measuring hot (e. A Venturi tube is connected to the existing pipe. liquid toffee) and cold (e.Can be used in a wide range of liquid flow conditions . A calculator for the orifice plate flowmeters can be found in the fluid mechanics section.. As the flowing fluid passes through the orifice plate.Larger in over-all size compared to other flowmeters . Many types of differential pressure flowmeters are used in the industry: • Orifice Plate: A flat plate with an opening is inserted into the pipe and placed perpendicular to the flow stream.0 Differential pressure flowmeters Differential pressure flowmeters (in most cases) employ the Bernoulli equation that describes the relationship between pressure and velocity of a flow. liquid nitrogen) fluid flow .. first narrowing down in diameter then openning up back to the original pipe diameter. cryogenic helium. • Venturi Tube: A section of tube forms a relatively long passage with smooth entry and exit..g. the flow velocity can then be calculated.g.Clogging may occur and difficult to clean . A calculator for the venturi tube flowmeters can be found in the fluid mechanics section.Limited line size availability 3. 3 of 12 .High initial set up cost . The changes in cross section area cause changes in velocity and pressure of the flow.Suitable for bi-directional flow • Cons: .

• Pitot Tube: A probe with an open tip (Pitot tube) is inserted into the flow field. The change in cross section area of the flow path creates pressure drops used to calculate flow velocities. See Pitot Tube Flowmeters and Pitot Static Tubes for more details. 4 of 12 . Pitot tubes can measure flow velocity at the point of measurement.• Segmental Wedge: A wedge-shaped segment is inserted perpendicularly into one side of the pipe while the other side remains unrestricted. Its pressure. The tip is the stationary (zero velocity) point of the flow. is used to calculate the flow velocity. • V-Cone: A cone shaped obstructing element that serves as the cross section modifier is placed at the center of the pipe for calculating flow velocities by measuring the pressure differential. compared to the static pressure.

This difference in pressure is used to calcuate the flow velocity. The pressure difference generated by an elbow flowmeter is smaller than that by other pressure differential flowmeters. it features the same tapering intake portion of a venturi tube but has a 'shoulder' similar to the orifice plate's exit part to create a sharp pressure drop. • Dall Tube: A combination of Venturi tube and orifice plate. It is usually used in applications with larger flow rates. 5 of 12 . averaging Pitot tubes take the flow profile into consideration to provide better over all accuracy in pipe flows.• Averaging Pitot Tube: Similar to Pitot tubes but with multiple openings. which may or may not be tolerated in a particular application. although simple in construction and widely used in industry. have a common drawback: They always create a certain amount of pressure drop. • Elbow: When a liquid flows through an elbow. the centrifugal forces cause a pressure difference between the outer and inner sides of the elbow. but the upside is an elbow flowmeter has less obstruction to the flow. Differential pressure flowmeters.

High linearity .Can be used in hazardous environments or measure corrosive or slurry fluid flow 6 of 12 .. a conductor.Can be used in wide ranges of fluid phases and flow conditions .Minimum obstruction in the flow path yields minimum pressure drop . If the targeted fluid is electrically conductive. also known as electromagnetic flowmeters or induction flowmeters. obtain the flow velocity by measuring the changes of induced voltage of the conductive fluid passing across a controlled magnetic field.Pros and Cons • Pros: .Two and multi beam models have higher accuracy than other comparably priced flowmeters . i.Low to medium initial set up cost .e.Medium to high pressure drop 4.Low maintenance cost because of no moving parts . its passing through the pipe is equivalent to a conductor cutting across the magnetic field. the higher the voltage. A typical magnetic flowmeter places electric coils around (inline model) / near (insertion model) the pipe of the flow to be measured and sets up a pair of electrodes across the pipe wall (inline model) or at the tip of the flowmeter (insertion model). The operation principle of inline magnetic flowmeters The operation principle of insertion magnetic flowmeters Pros and Cons • Pros: . This induces changes in voltage reading between the electrodes.0 Magnetic flowmeters Magnetic flowmeters.Simple and sturdy structures • Cons: . The higher the flow speed.

A typical positive displacement flowmeter comprises a chamber that obstructs the flow. Inside the chamber. new designs improve on this issue) 5. Common positive displacement flowmeters are: • Nutating Disc: • Rotating Valve: • Oscillating Piston: • Oval Gear: 7 of 12 . also know as PD meters.• Cons: . the volume of the fluid that passes the chamber can be obtained by counting the number of passing parcels or equivalently the number rounds of the rotating/reciprocating mechanical device.Zero drifting at no/low flow (may be avoided by low flow cut-off. a rotating/reciprocating mechanical unit is placed to create fixed-volume discrete parcels from the passing fluid. Many types of positive displacement flowmeters are used in the industry.Requires electrical conductivity of fluid higher than 3 µS/cm in most cases .0 Positive displacement flowmeters Positive displacement flowmeters. They all share the same principle of operation and are volumetric flow measuring instruments. Hence. They are named after the mechanical device inside the chamber. measure volumes of fluid flowing through by counting repeatedly the filling and discharging of known fixed volumes. The volume flow rate can be calculated from the revolution rate of the mechanical device.

although simple in principle of operation and widely used in the industry.Can be used in viscous liquid flow • Cons: . all cause a considerable pressure drop which has to be considered for any potential application.Not suitable for low flow rate . Positive displacement flowmeters.Higher maintenance cost than other non-obstructive flowmeters .Gas (bubbles) in liquid could significantly decrease the accuracy 8 of 12 . To achieve the designed accuracy and ensure that the positiive displacement flowmeter functions properly. a filtration system is required to remove particles larger the 100 µm as well as gas (bubbles) from the liquid flow.Low to medium initial set up cost . Pros and Cons • Pros: .High pressure drop due to its total obstruction on the flow path .Very low tolerance to suspension in flow (particles larger than 100 µm need to be filtered before the liquid enters the flowmeter) .• Roots (Rotating Lobe): • Birotor: • Rotating Impeller: The accuracy of positive displacement flowmeters relies on the integrity of the capillary seal that separates incoming fluid into discrete parcels.

Can be used in abrasive.0 Thermal flowmeters Thermal flowmeters measure the heat carried away from the sensor by the passing flow to determine the mass flow rate.Can be made to measure flow velocity that is sporadic or multidirectional with sphere drag element designs • Cons: . into the flow field. and well thought-out mathematical formulas.Less popular than it was before 7.Medium initial set up cost . Pros and Cons • Pros: . also known as drag force flowmeters. contaminated. insert a target (drag element). usually a flat disc or a sphere with an extension rod.0 Target flowmeters Target flowmeters. with a sphere drag element.6. a target flowmeter is capable of measuring sporadic and multi-directional flows. One major advantage of the target flowmeter over other flowmeters is. They then measure the drag force on the inserted target and convert it to the flow velocity. Pros and Cons • Pros: .Fragile. or corrosive fluid flow .Low pressure drop • Cons: . a proper strain gage layout.Low initial set up cost . high repair cost .Pressure drop is inevitable due to the rod and the drag element .For (clean) gas only 9 of 12 .

Low to medium pressure drop 9.0 Turbine flowmeters Turbine flowmeters. However. whereby the transmitted frequency is altered linearly by being reflected from particles and bubbles in the fluid. one transducer transmits an ultrasonic beam of ~0. The net result is a frequency shift between transmitter and receiver frequencies that can be directly related to the flow rate. 10 of 12 . time tested proven technology • Cons: . Doppler ultrasonic flowmeters operate on the Doppler effect. The inline type. Ultrasonic flowmeters can be categorized into two types based on the installation method: clamped-on and inline.0 Ultrasonic flowmeters Ultrasonic flowmeters measure the traveling times (transit time models) or the frequency shifts(Doppler models) of ultrasonic waves in a pre-configured acoustic field that the flow is passing through to determine the flow velocity. It can easily be installed on existing piping systems without worrying about corrosion problems. as the name implies. it usually offers better accuracy and its calibration procedures are more straightforward. utilize their angular velocity (rotation speed) to indicate the flow velocity. measure the difference in travel time between pulses transmitted in the direction of. Clamped-on designs also increase the portablility of the flowmeter. The clamped-on type is located outside of the pipe and there are no wetted parts. This type of meter is also called time of flight and time of travel.For clean fluid only . Doppler flowmeters are named for the Austrian physicist and mathematician Christian Johann Doppler (18031853). Pros and Cons • Pros: . who in 1842 predicted that the frequencies of received sound waves depended on the motion of the source or observer relative to the propagating medium.5 MHz into the flow stream (see Figure 2).8. The movement of these materials alters the frequency of the beam reflected onto a second. on the other hand. Figure 2. and against. receiving transducer. the flow.Reliable. like windmills. Transit-time meters. Transit-Time Flowmeters. To use the Doppler effect to measure flow in a pipe. The frequency shift is linearly proportional to the rate of flow of materials in the pipe and therefore can be used to develop an analog or digital signal proportional to flow rate. requires fitting flanges or wafers for installation. A good turbine flowmeter requires well designed and placed aerodynamic/hydrodynamic blades that are suitable for the fluid and flow condition and bearings that are both smooth and durable to survive the sustained high-speed rotation of the turbine.Medium initial set up cost . Liquid flowing through the pipe must contain sonically reflective materials such as solid particles or entrained air bubbles. Doppler Flowmeters.

No moving parts. Flume: 11 of 12 . the higher the flow path area.No obstruction in the flow path.Figure 3.Can be used to measure corrosive or slurry fluid flow • Cons: . Each acts as both a transmitter and receiver for the ultrasonic beam.0 Variable area flowmeter A Variable area flowmeter's cross section area available to the flow varies with the flow rate.Multi-path models have higher accuracy for wider ranges of Reynolds number .Higher initial set up cost 10. Pros and Cons • Pros: . Variable area flowmeters can further be categorized into three types • Rotameter: The most widely used variable area flowmeter. Two transducers are used. • Movable Vane Meter: • Weir. the higher the volume flow rate. low maintenance cost . Transit-time flowmeters measure the difference in travel time between pulses transmitted in a single path along and against the flow. Under a (nearly) constant pressure drop. one upstream of the other. no pressure drop .

robust . compared to other more complicated flowmeters. simple.Variable area flowmeters are robust.Very low initial set up cost .Low to medium pressure drop due to the obstruction in the flow path 12 of 12 .Not suitable for low flow rate .Not much maintenance needed when used in clean flow conditions • Cons: . however less accurate.Moderate accuracy at best .0 Vortex flowmeters Vortex flowmeters.Low. Pros and Cons • Pros: .Some variable area flowmeters can not be used in non/low gravity environments . low cost. also know as vortex shedding flowmeters or oscillatory flowmeters. measure the vibrations of the downstream vortexes caused by the barrier placed in a moving stream. Pros and Cons • Pros: . The vibrating frequency of vortex shedding can then be related to the velocity of flow.Simple.Low to medium initial set up cost .Rotameters must be mounted vertically 11. nearly constant. pressure drop • Cons: .