You are on page 1of 8


a simple industrial flow meter that measures

volumetric flow of liquids and gases in a closed
they have linear scales, a relatively large
measurement range, low pressure drop, and are
simple to install and maintain.
are a subset of meters called variable area flow
meters that measure the flow rate by allowing the
fluid to travel through a tapered tube where the
cross sectional area of the tube gradually becomes
greater as the fluid travels through the tube.

Three basic components:

a uniformly tapered flow tube
a float
measurement scale
A control valve may be added
if flow control is also desired. In
operation, the rotameter is positioned
vertically in the fluid system with the
smallest diameter end of the tapered
flow tube at the bottom. This is the
fluid inlet. The float, typically
spherical, is located inside the flow
tube, and is engineered so that its
diameter is nearly identical to the flow
tubes inlet diameter.

The flow rate inside the

rotameter is measured using
a float that is lifted by the
fluid flow based on the
buoyancy and velocity of
the fluid opposing gravity
pulling the float down. For
gasses the float responds to
the velocity alone,
buoyancy is negligible.
The float is always
denser than the substance it
is resting in and does not
actually float on the
substances surface, but
rests somewhere between
the substances surface and
the bottom of the container.

As a liquid or gas passes through the tube,

the flow causes the float to rise. As the float
rises, more and more fluid flows by the float
because the tapered tubes diameter is
increasing. Ultimately, a point is reached
where the flow area is large enough to allow
the entire volume of the fluid to flow past the
float. This flow area is called the annular
passage. The float is now stationary at that
level within the tube as its weight is being
supported by the fluid forces which caused it
to rise. This position corresponds to a point
on the tubes measurement scale and
provides an indication of the fluids flow
rate. The operator reads the flow from a
graduated scale on the side of the rotameter.

Changes in the flow rate cause rotameter's float to change

position inside the tube. Since the float position is based on gravity it is
important that all rotameters be mounted vertically and oriented with the
widest end of the taper at the top. It is also important to remember that if
there is no flow the float will sink to the bottom of the rotameter due to
its own weight.
Rotameters can be calibrated for other fluids by understanding
the basic operating principles. Rotameter accuracy is determined by the
accuracy of the pressure, temperature, and flow control during the initial
calibration. Any change in the density and weight of the float will have
impacts on the rotameter's flow reading. Additionally any changes that
would affect the fluid such as pressure or temperature will also have an
affect on the rotameter's accuracy. Given this, rotameters should be
calibrated yearly to correct for any changes in the system that may have

No external power
You can see the process
Rotameters are cost
Simple to install and
Low pressure drop
Offer wide flow
measurement ranges or
Rotameter's scale is linear

Must always be installed

vertically with the fluid
flowing up through it
Graduated scale will only
be valid for the specific
fluid and conditions where
it was calibrated.
Difficult to be adapted for
machine reading
Must be made of glass or
other transparent material
in order for the user to see
the float in the tube

Rotameters are used in systems that involve a

liquid or gas travelling through a tube. For example,
rotameters are used in oil pipelines to measure the
flow rate of oil as it is dispersed from one location
to another across great distances. Portable
rotameters can also be constructed to measure the
flow rate of large bodies of liquid or gas, such as
rivers, oceans, streams, as well as the atmosphere.
These portable rotameters can simply be dunked
into the substance they are measuring in order for a
measurement to be taken.