Ultrasonic Flowmeter

Using ultrasonic flowmeter in flow measurements

The ultrasonic technique of measurement of volume flow rate is, like the magnetic flowmeter, a non-invasive method. It is not restricted to conductive fluids, however, and is particularly useful for measuring the flow of corrosive fluids and slurries. A further advantage over magnetic flowmeters is that the instrument is one which clamps on externally to existing pipework rather than being inserted as an integral part of the flow line, as in the case of the magnetic flowmeter. As the procedure of breaking into a pipeline to insert a flowmeter can be as expensive as the cost of the flowmeter itself, the ultrasonic flowmeter has enormous cost advantages. Its clamp-on mode of operation has significant safety advantages in avoiding the possibility of personnel installing flowmeters coming into contact with hazardous fluids such as poisonous, radioactive, flammable or explosive ones. Also, any contamination of the fluid being measured (e.g food substances and drugs) is avoided. The introduction of this type of flowmeter is comparatively recent and its present market share is only about 1% of flowmeters sold. In view of its distinct advantages, however, this proportion is likely to increase in the future.

Two different types of ultrasonic flowmeter exist which employ distinct technologies, one based on the Doppler shift and the other on transit time. In the past, the existence of these alternative technologies has not always been readily understood, and has resulted in ultrasonic technology being rejected entirely when one of these two forms has been found to be unsatisfactory in a particular application. This is unfortunate, because the two technologies have distinct characteristics and areas of application, and many situations exist where one form is very suitable and the other unsuitable. To reject both, having only tried out one, is therefore a serious mistake.

Particular care has to be taken to ensure a stable flow profile in ultrasonic flowmeter applications. It is usual to increase the normal specification of the minimum length of straight run of pipe prior to the point of measurement, expressed as a number of pipe diameters, from a figure of 10 up to 20 or in some cases even 50 diameters. Analysis of the reasons for poor performance in many instances of ultrasonic flowmeter application has shown failure to meet this stable flow profile requirement to be a significant factor.

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