Flow sensors are sometimes called flow meters. But there’s a slight difference since sensors can check the levels of still water. They are tools that you use to gauge the rate of fluid flow in a channel. Also, flow sensors have a part that detects the fluid flow through various techs.
The main categories of flow sensors are contact and non-contact. The type depends on whether the sensor gets in touch with the fluid in a channel or reservoir.
The Relevance of Flow Sensors
Flow sensors are vital in tracking fluid flow in various systems. In the past, the systems needed constant manning. However, it became costly as the minimum wage kept rising.
There was a need to develop tools that would reduce the workforce in various firms. Thus the fluid gauge manufacturers found it wise to create automatic sensors.
These sensors can operate without supervision. You can calibrate the systems to your fluid traits. Then, you’ll be monitoring at long intervals. In most cases, you’ll have a remote computer where you’ll receive all the readings on screen. It eases the workload at the site, reduces the workforce, increases profits, and cuts workplace accidents.
Automatic flow sensors are fixed with alarm systems. If the flow is above or below the required flow rate, or in case of a leak, the sensor activates an alarm. Some will have a shut-off system that helps cut losses in case of sudden leaks and pipe bursts.
Working Principles of Flow Sensors
There are different flow sensors- Each principle depends on the type of flow sensor in use. Some of the oldest types of flow sensors are mechanical types. They have moving parts within them that aids in detecting the fluid flow rate. Positive displacement sensors are an example of mechanical devices. They hold a known amount of fluid before releasing it. You gauge the flow rate by the number of spins that the blades make. There’s also another example of mechanical sensors like the paddlewheel sensor and turbine sensors. These types detect the flow rate by the speed of the spins of the blades.
One downside of mechanical sensors is that they don’t depict the pressure and heat of the flowing fluid. Also, it’s hard to use them with highly viscous fluids with particles. Their maintenance becomes costly since you need to remove silt and sediments regularly. Also, the moving parts are subject to wear and tear, making the flow sensors have a short life span.
Non-mechanical sensors have several advantages. They don’t have moving parts. Thus they are cheap and durable.
Types of Flow Sensors
There are various types of flow sensors. Let’s check the common types that have made a difference in the flow industries.
Mass Flow Sensor
A Mass flow sensor work with heated fluids. They are useful in gauging gas flow within a system. The sensor will detect the heat transfer from one point to another. One type checks heat difference at two nodes, while the other checks the energy needed to equalize the heat at different nodes.
Velocity Flow Sensors
These sensors check the fluid flow rate through the velocity of the fluid. Mechanical, magnetic, and ultrasonic sensors fall under this category.
Positive Displacement Flow Sensor
These sensors work by displacing a known amount of fluid. They are the only mechanical flow sensors that do direct gauging.
Applications of Flow Sensors
Liquid flow sensors are useful in energy, environmental, petrochemical, health, biotech, aerospace, and semiconductors firms. The function of the flow sensor depends on the type of flow sensor you select.
The types of flow meters above differ in their sensing tech. Contact-type flow sensors work well in water-like and non-corrosive fluids. Also, the liquids should be free from hazards.
A flow sensor can monitor fluid properties such as density, pressure, heat level, volumetric flow rate, and mass flow rate. These functions make the techs useful to the plant operators– You get a real-time flow rate reading. Also, they have great accuracy, cost reduction, and process efficiency when they select the best flow sensor for their system.
Some uses demand precise flow gauging. Mostly, they are referred to as custody transfers. Errors in such uses could lead to mass poisoning or massive losses. These industries include biotech, food and beverage, energy, as well as oil and gas industries. Biotech and food and beverage firms offer products for human ingestion. There are controlled amounts of chemicals that are needed in the process. The chemicals require accurate sensors to ensure the end products are safe. Several government bodies regulate such firms to ensure they are up to standards.
In energy and oil and gas firms, minor errors can lead to massive losses. Thus, you need to apply the right flow sensor for your fluid type. Also, you should attach them to a leak detection system. It ensures that you can locate any leaks to avoid losses and eco pollution.
Leak detection is an important use of flow sensors. As mentioned earlier, it helps minimize losses. Leaks can greatly affect the billing of a fluid. This can lead to losses on the service provider since it doesn’t get to the users’ billing meters. If the leaks are past the meter, the recipient will pay for the fluids they did not use. It raises the monthly bills due to wastage.
Fluid flow sensors are vital in automatic systems. They give you real-time flow gauging. Thus, you can monitor your fluid flow remotely. You can also get an alarm to activate a trigger.