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What Is a Portable Ultrasonic Flow Meter?

Mal Baxter
Mal Baxter

A portable ultrasonic flow meter is a handheld device that detects the rate of flow of liquids and gases through piping or other channels. This is accomplished through various techniques that essentially measure the mechanical propagation of sound waves through material. The physical disruption caused by different speeds, densities, and temperatures of materials is measured by comparing signals passing with and against flows. Without moving parts or invasive processes, these units can be carried on location to check flows at different points or to test fixed measuring equipment.

Innovations in portable ultrasonic flow meter designs permit accurate readings that exceed older technologies by factors of five to ten times. Able to minimize effects of background noise, they can penetrate even low densities of liquids and gases. A single handheld unit can be carried to check unlimited measurement points at varying times; this enables versatile use in complex systems. They may transmit and detect ultrasonic acoustics through a wide range of pipe schedules. Units can penetrate plastic tubing and metal pipes from subzero temperatures to hundreds of degrees.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Most portable ultrasonic flow meter units consist of a transducer pair attached by cable to a handheld readout device. Transducers mount to the external surface of the pipe and do not disrupt or pollute flow. Liquids, gases, flammables, or compressed air may be measured, provided the material falls within the device's technical specifications. The device can provide a flow profile within seconds. Readings are measured in distance over time, such as feet or meters per second.

Many devices provide measurements in either imperial or metric units on materials that conduct sound even if incapable of conducting electronic current. Dataloggers record and chart readings, while cases are sometimes housed with weatherproof and backlit ergonomics. Providing instant site-specific insights and backup for other systems, portable ultrasonic flow meter units can be transported easily and are often easy to operate. The quick response time and affordability of the technology provide organizations with valuable data for optimizing efficiency and minimizing costs.

Various portable ultrasonic flow meter products permit either single or dual flow channels. Battery operated, they typically attach quickly and are able to factor in pipe material properties stored in internal databases. Some can automatically detect transducer pairs and require no initial calibrations. Remote transmitters on other equipment permit operation in explosion-hazard areas. The measurement of the propagation of acoustic waves allows these devices to function effectively through clean or dirty media.

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