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Flow meters, nowadays, have been very important for many industries.
Without these devices, manufacturing, productions and such industrial
operations can encounter variety of problems and/or technical difficulties.
For a petroleum company to determine the amount of flow of liquid fuel in a
pipe for a given time, flow meters are installed across the duct. Hence, flow
meters are devices use to measure the linear,nonlinear, mass or volumetric
flow rate of a fluid (gas or liquid) moving through a pipe. It is referred to by
many names, such as flow gauge, flow indicator, liquid meter, etc.
There are many types of flow meter and each type has its own measuring
properties. For a certain type of measurement, there is a particular
instrument that we can use. Trade offs are commonly encountered with each
meter type so it is vital to know the critical specifications. Some factors to
consider in choosing the best flow meter are given below.
What to consider in choosing a sensor?
What Gas or Liquid will be measured?
Minimum and maximum flow rates.
What are the accuracy requirements?
The fluid temperature and viscosity.
Fluid compatibility with the materials of construction
The maximum pressure at the location.
What pressure drop is allowable?
Will the meter be mounted in a hazardous location?
Is the fluid flow continuous or intermittent?
What type of output signal or readout do you need? (Max Machinery,
There are three types of flow rates that can be measured: mass flow rate,
velocity, and volumetric flow rate.



These devices are use to measure the mass flow rate of the fluid.
These has been the most critical flow measurements in a processing
plant due to its various applications. Hence, the reliability and accuracy
of mass flow detection is of utmost importance.

Mass flow meters are commonly seen in oil and gas industries, marine
applications, chemical petrochemical industries, paints, sealants and
coatings production, food and beverage industries and many other
applications that usually encounter. (Transactions, n.d.)

Types of Mass flow rate sensors:

Thermal Mass Flowmeters
Coriolis Mass Flowmeters
1. Thermal Mass Flowmeters

Thermal mass flow meter utilizes the thermal properties of the fluid to
measure the flow of a fluid flowing in a pipe or duct. The temperature
difference among the two sensors in this flow meter gives us the mass
flow rate of the fluid. In principle, we have two types of sensor, one is
the flow speed sensor which is controlled (heated) to a specified
temperature difference from ambient temperature.The other one is
the temperature sensor which is also called the reference sensor.
When there is a flow of gas or a liquid, the heat from the flow speed
sensor is taken away gradually creating a cooling effect. Mass flow rate
is determined by the amount of heat current supplied to the flow
sensor to maintain the differential temperature between the two
sensors. (Oval Corporation, n.d.)

The mass flow rate is computed based on the given formula below:
2. Coriolis meters

In Coriolis mass flow meters, we measure the mass rate of flow directly
as opposed to volumetric flow. The mass flow rate is determined with
regards to the oscillation of the tube when there is a flow of fluid. For a
coriolis meter, there is an exciter located in the lower part of the tube
between the two highly sensitive sensors. The exciter promotes the
oscillation of the tube. When there is no fluid flow, the tube oscillates
evenly. However, when the fluid starts to flow, the oscillation is

accompanied with the twisting of the tube and the mass flow rate is
determine with regards to space and time

Another flow rate usually being measured is the velocity of the fluid.
Flow velocity is a vector quantity used to refer to the fluid motion and is a
function of fluid position, given that the velocity is constant. At times when
the velocity is changing, it becomes a function of time as well. Moreover, as
a vector quantity, such velocity must contain at least one non-zero
directional component and may have up to three non-zero directional
components. The velocity vector has non-zero constituents in any orthogonal
direction at which fluid motion takes place.
Flow velocity is determined easily for laminar flow but, complex for the
turbulent flow. Laminar flow, in relation to rate, is the non-turbulent motion
of fluid wherein parallel layers have different velocities relative to each other,
whereas turbulent flow is the fluid motion having local velocities and
pressures which fluctuate randomly (Flow Rate and Velocity).
For measuring velocity, several sensors are available and used in
various flow meters some being a more suitable and practical choice
depending on the situation, the desired result, and the properties and
characteristics of the substances or materials involved. (See section: How to
choose an appropriate sensor?)

Meters for Velocity Measurement:

1. Turbine type flowmeter

This is a simple way of velocity measurement wherein a rotating

shaft with turbine type angular blades is located inside the pipe. The
flow velocity is determined by its relation with the turbines speed of
rotation caused by the flowing fluid. There are certain options on
how to measure this speed of rotation such as using inductive pick
up and optical method. This relation is manifested in the equation:
tan = r

v fluids average velocity

r angular speed of the blade
R radius of the blade

2. Vortex Flowmeter

Another way of velocity measurement is by utilizing the proportional

relationship between flow velocity and the frequency of vortex
shedding when the fluid flowing through the pipe passes through an
obstruction called the shedder bar or bluff body. Once the fluid
passes through the shedder bar, vortices are formed and a Karman
vortex trail can be observed. This trail oscillates along the path of
the pipe where sensors (i.e. pressure sensor) are placed to detect
the frequency of the vortex shedding. The relationship between the
flow velocity and the frequency of the formed vortices is given by:

3. Electromagnetic Flowmeter
Another way of velocity measurement is the use of electromagnetic
flowmeters. This type of measurement is backed up by the principles
of electromagnetic induction. Here, the flowing fluid functions as a
conductor, hence, its application is for velocity measurement of
conducting and weakly conducting liquids such as mercury and
water, respectively. To obtain measurement, an external magnetic
field is perpendicularly applied to the direction of the flow and two
electrodes are flushed on the wall of the pipe. The measurement is
then given as a complete linear output in voltage form.

There are several advantages to this type of flowmeter, such as:

a. Theres no obstruction to the flow in the pipeline
b. The reading is independent of pressure, temperature and fluid
c. Reverse flow can be measured.
d. Low velocities (up to 10-6 m/s) can be measured.
4. Ultrasonic Flowmeter

This type of velocity measurement utilizes the principle of acoustic

waves propagation. As sound passes through a fluid, the speed at
which it propagates depends on the fluids density. For a constant
fluid density, the time of sound passage can be utilized in
determining the fluid velocity.
One type of ultrasonic flowmeter is the Doppler flowmeter named
after Christian Doppler who discovered the basic principle governing
Doppler-shift ultrasonic flowmeters. According to Doppler, an
observer perceives sound to be shorter when the source is
approaching and longer when it is moving away. Doppler flowmeters
are equipped with transducers which send ultrasonic pulse or beam
into the flowing fluid. Because of acoustical discontinuities such as
fluid particles, entrained gas bubbles, and turbulent vortices, sound
waves are reflected back and are received by the meter. The meter
then detects the velocity of these discontinuities which is related to
the flow velocity by the equation:

( f 0 f 1 ) C t
2 f 0 cos( a)

Ct = velocity of sound inside the transducer

f0 = transmission frequency
f1 = reflected frequency
a = angle of the transmitter and receiver crystals with
respect to the pipe axis
Each flowmeter has its own appropriate application, depending on the
limitations and constraints posed by their governing principles. A summary of
their applications are presented in Table 1.


Turbine flowmeter

Used in water distribution industry

Vortex flowmeter

Used in measuring velocity of fluids

without significant amount of solids;
Mostly used in steam application; not
recommended for low pressure gases
with low velocities

Electromagnetic flowmeter

Used in measuring velocities of

conducting and weakly conducting

Ultrasonic flowmeter (Doppler


Used in measuring flow of slurries; not

practical for flow velocity less than


In physics and engineering, particularly in fluid dynamics and
hydrometry, volumetric flow rate of a system is a measure of the fluid
passing a point in the system through a given cross-sectional area per unit
time. It can also be referred to as the measure of the amount and speed or
velocity at which a fluid flows in a given period of time. This flow rate is
found from the flow velocity and the surface area through which the fluid
Volumetric flow rate is denoted by the symbol Q and is usually
expressed in m3/s and cm3/s. Mathematically, the flow rate can be expressed
Volume , V
equation 1
time ,t

However, volume is equal to the area of the flow, A, multiplied with

width of the portion of the fluid, d
equation 2
Note that d/t is the distance or width of the fluid volume divided by the
time it took to flow through such distance, or in other terms, speed, v.
Substituting it to equation 2
Q= Av
equation 3
In relation to volumetric flow rate, liquids must maintain their volume
in a pipe since they are nearly incompressible. This means that the fluid or
liquid volume flowing into the pipe at a given amount of time must equal the
volume of the fluid or liquid flowing out of the pipe during the same time.
This principle is known as the Equation of Continuity. It states that the
volumetric flow rate of an incompressible fluid at any point along the pipe is
remained constant as that at any other point in the material. For instances
where the area of a section is decreased, the liquid speed is increased in
order to attain the same volumetric flow rate. Generalizing it, the fluid
speeds up when it reaches a narrow pipe section and slows down when it
reaches a wider section. Arithmetically,
Where Q1 and Q2 are the volumetric flow rates at points 1 and 2,
Experimentally and industrially, volumetric flow meters can be used in
medical devices, instrumentation, pneumatic and environmental controls.
Examples of which that are used in instrumentation are the float rotameter
and oval gear rotameter. Float rotameters consist of a tapered tube, made of
glass with a float (made either of anodized aluminium or ceramic) inside
that is pushed by the flow drag force and pulled down by gravity. This
apparatus does not require an external force, but uses gravity and the
inherent properties of the fluid itself. One of the most considered
characteristic is viscosity as the float are insensitive to it.
Float rotameter scales are approximately linear but, graduations are
only accurate for a given substance at a given temperature. In addition,
uncertainties in measurements are inevitable primarily due to the float
oscillations and parallax, or the displacement difference in the object position
viewed along two different lines of sight.
Oval gear flow meter, on the other hand, measures flow by employing
a geared rotor to pass known fluid volumes through a housing. The fluid
differential pressure causes the inter-meshing gears to rotate, trapping a
'pocket' of fluid between the gear and the outer housing and subsequently
emptying the fluid pocket into the downstream flow. Fluid slippage, however,
undesirably causes an effect on the measurement accuracy. Fluid slippage is
an occurrence where the fluid velocity at all fluid-solid boundary is equal to
that if the solid boundary. It also varies the flow rate, differential pressure,
temperature, viscosity and, clearance readings. Oval gear flow meters are
designed primarily for the use with higher-viscosity fluids, namely syrups, oils

and fuel. It is not much recommended for the use with low-viscosity fluids
like water since such fluids increase fluid slippage.
In terms of medical devices, LDE is one of the common apparatus
used. It is typically attached to respirators, spirometers, sleep diagnostic
equipment and oxygen conservers as it possesses the ability of controlling a
persons breathing with the help of a flow-based difference pressure sensors.
Due to the LDE sensors high pneumatic impedance, the total amount of the
humid air (which can condense) streaming through the bypass channel is
reduced to an absolute minimum.


1. RF/Capacitance Sensor
Capacitance is the ability of a component or circuit to collect and
store energy in the form of an electrical charge.
Admittance is a measure of the conductivity in an ac circuit, and is
the reciprocal of impedance.
Impedance is the total opposition that a circuit presents to alternating
Capacitor is a device that stores energy
Capacitance level detectors are also referred to as radio frequency (RF) or
admittance level sensors. They operate in the low MHz radio frequency
range, measuring admittance of an alternating current (ac) circuit that varies
with level.
RF Capacitance level controls are based on an electronic device called
a capacitor. Energy is not stored in the probe; rather, the RF
Capacitance level control is merely measuring how much energy can
be stored.

The amount of capacitance the RF Capacitance level control is

measuring is extremely small and is measured in picofarads (1 X 1012) farads.


A = Area of the capacitor plates
D = distance or gap separating the plates
K = Dielectric constant

For horizontally-mounted capacitance:

A = Total area (Area of the sensor probe, A1 + Area of the conductive vessel
wall, A2)
D = shortest distance between the sensor probe and the vessel wall
K1 = Dielectric constant of the vapor
K2 = Dielectric constant of the process material
Table of Dielectric constants:



Materials have the tendency to absorb radiation. Due to this phenomenon,

radiation-based gages can be used as means of level instrumentation. There
are several common types of radiation used for continuous level gages such
as radar/microwave, ultrasonic, and nuclear. Attributed to the discovery of
Marie Curie, the working principle behind nuclear level sensors is the ability
of certain elements to naturally emit energy called gamma rays. This type of
sensor is based on the fact that gamma rays lose some of their intensity
when passed through solid, impenetrable mass. This decrease in intensity is
said to be dependent on the specific gravity, total thickness of the object,
and the distance between the source of gamma ray and the detector.
Common sources used:

Cesium- 137

[1] Precision Liquid Flow Meters (2016). Max Machinery. Retrieved September
3, 2016 from

[2] Flow and Level Measurement (n.d.). Transactions. Retrieved September 3,

2016 from
[3] Flowmeters TOP (n.d.). Oval Corporation. Retrieved September 3, 2016