Flow Meter Technologies

Flow Technologies

The basic physical techniques that flowmeters work to are well established; it’s the latest technology and materials that are applied which give the wide variety of choices in the market.

Flowmeters fall into six broad groups:

Differential Pressure Devices

Variable Area Meters, Mechanical Flap Devices

Inferential Devices

Turbine Meters, Propeller Meters

Positive Displacement Meters

Oval Gear, Nutating Disc, Oscillating Piston

Fluidic Devices

Vortex Meters

Velocity Measuring Devices

Ultrasonic And Electro-Magnetic Meters

Mass Flow Measurement Meters

Coriolis And Thermal

Each flow meter type has its own strengths and weaknesses, each performing optimally under different conditions.

Mass Flow Meters

Mass flow meters, specifically the Coriolis, measure mass flow directly and can meter down to low flow rates. They work based on when a fluid is in motion, any change in direction will produce a reaction in the system. This reaction is proportional to the mass of the fluid being accelerated.

Mass flow meters are viewed by many as close to the perfect flow measuring device, delivering excellent accuracy and overall performance. However, Coriolis type meters can be very expensive.

Coriolis flow meters - cost performance range and accuracy graph
Ultrasonic flow meters - cost performance range and accuracy graph

Velocity Flow Meters

Velocity flow meters include Ultrasonic and Electromagnetic flow meters, both of which use full pipe bores, measure the liquid velocity and are inherently bi-directional. For large pipes a multipath meter will give superb velocity information.

Add in measurements or tables for the other fluid variables and an ultrasonic flowmeter is the perfect device for these large conduits. For medium size tubes a clamp-on ultrasonic meter will give flow readings with no additional pressure drop to the system, although set-up and calibration is required for really accurate readings.

For tubes down to 1mm bore, in-line volumetric meters are available with excellent accuracy when using the latest available technology. Such ultrasonic flow meters are independent of Reynolds numbers and can therefore operate from laminar flow up to turbulent flow. This makes them highly commercial being able to accurately measure liquids ranging from water to high viscosity oils. As through-flow devices, they can also be tolerant to impurities in the system which would cause havoc to meters with moving parts.

Titan’s Range of Atrato® Ultrasonic Flowmeters

Atrato ultrasonic flow meter models with various fittings and configurations

Ultrasonic flow sensors use high frequency sound waves to measure flow. The ultrasound is injected with the direction of flow into the fluid by one transmitting sensor and is received by a second sensor further down the tube. The second sensor then sends a second ultrasound signal back against the flow to the first sensor. As one sound pulse is accelerated by the velocity of the liquid and the second retarded, the difference in the flight time is twice the fluid velocity, and as the dimensions of the flowmeter tubes are known the volumetric flow can be calculated.

Illustration to show Time of Flight in Ultrasonic flow meters

The Electromagnetic meters are highly accurate and reliable, making them ideal for any conductive liquid. Electromagnetic meters can be used successfully with aggressive and contaminated liquids and are also reasonably priced.

Inferential Flow Meters

Inferential flow meters have been an industry standard for many years. Turbine flow devices are the most common and give great accuracy under known operating parameters but work best in turbulent flow with high Reynolds numbers. Potential issues arise when operating at the lower end of their operating range in variable fluid conditions. For small pipes the Pelton wheel devices work well but the same Reynolds number qualifier is required to maintain the performance.

Titan's NSF Approved 800-Series Turbine Flow Meter
Titan's Pelton Wheel Design that sits inside Turbine Flowmeters
Titan's 900-Series Turbine Flow Meter in stainless steel

Titan’s Pelton Wheel Design within the Turbine Flowmeters

Turbine flow meters - cost performance range and accuracy graph

Turbine Flowmeters

Turbine flowmeters are economic but do require clean homogenous fluids. External instrumentation is often required adding to the apparent meter installation cost. The larger dynamic range and the ability to meter very low flows, make the turbine meters ideal for beverage dispensing or other low-flow dosing processes.

Positive Displacement Meters

Positive displacement meters are a large family of devices, ranging from the domestic water meter through to highly accurate, sophisticated products for high viscosity liquids. Therefore, the price and specification range is enormous. These type of flowmeters – oval gear, nutating disc, oscillating piston – have the same basic mode of operation, taking a discrete volume of liquid and passing it from the inlet to the outlet without loss or slippage. These too require clean fluids as any contaminant will cause extra friction and potentially stop the device entirely. Typically, pulse output devices require additional external instrumentation.

Oval Gear flow - graphic diagram showing liquid flow through oval gears
Titans Oval Gear Range of Flowmeters

Titan’s Oval Gear Range of Flow Meters

Differential Pressure Devices

The appeal of differential pressure devices is obvious: simple, usually reliable, and relatively inexpensive. As a technology, they can handle a wide range of operating conditions from laminar flow through to the most turbulent. The most common method using this principle is with an orifice plate, a hole in the bore of the pipe that creates an obstruction to flow. The square root of the pressure differential is proportional to the flow rate.

Differential Pressure Devices - cost performance range and accuracy graph
Fluidic Flow Devices - cost performance range and accuracy graph

Fluidic Flowmeters

use the physical properties of moving liquids. These devices, like the vortex shedding meter, require high Reynolds numbers so are rarely used for very low flows or in small pipes.

“Available technologies that measure flow successfully are many and the user must always perform due diligence on the chosen supplier and technology.”

IChemE - The Chemical Engineer Magazine

Flowmeters: "Getting Back to Basics"

In line with our ethos of knowledge sharing, Titan Enterprises are excited to have articles published in IChemE’s prestigious publication – The Chemical Engineer. IChemE is the leading professional qualifying body for chemical, biochemical and process engineers.

You can read Flowmeters: Making the Right Choice and Pulse Sensors for Flow Measurement Devices and Applications online, or click the link below to download a PDF document of the article.

Cover for ICHEME article - Flowmeters - Making the Right Choice

Flowmeters: Making the Right Choice

Please click the image or blue heading above to download the full IChemE article

Cover for ICHEME article - Pulse Sensors, Sept 2023

Pulse Sensors for Flow Monitoring Applications

Please click the image or blue heading above to download the full IChemE article

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