Non-invasive Method to Measure Energy Flow Rate in a Pipe

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Virginia Tech


Current methods for measuring energy flow rate in a pipe use a variety of invasive sensors, including temperature sensors, turbine flow meters, and vortex shedding devices. These systems are costly to buy and install. A new approach that uses non-invasive sensors that are easy to install and less expensive has been developed. A thermal interrogation method using heat flux and temperature measurements is used. A transient thermal model, lumped capacitance method LCM, before and during activation of an external heater provides estimates of the fluid heat transfer coefficient ℎ and fluid temperature. The major components of the system are a thin-foil thermocouple, a heat flux sensor (PHFS), and a heater. To minimize the thermal contact resistance 𝑅" between the thermocouple thickness and the pipe surface, two thermocouples, welded and parallel, were tested together in the same set-up. Values of heat transfer coefficient ℎ, thermal contact resistance 𝑅", time constant 𝜏, and the water temperature °C, were determined by using a parameter estimation code which depends on the minimum root mean square 𝑅𝑀𝑆 error between the analytical and experimental sensor temperature values. The time for processing data to get the parameter estimation values is from three to four minutes. The experiments were done over a range of flow rates (1.5 gallon/minute to 14.5 gallon/minute). A correlation between the heat transfer coefficient ℎ and the flow rate 𝑄 was done for both the parallel and the welded thermocouples. Overall, the parallel thermocouple is better than the welded thermocouple. The parallel thermocouple gives small average thermal contact resistance 𝑎𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑎𝑔𝑒 𝑅"=0.00001 (𝑚2.°C/𝑊), and consistence values of water temperature and heat transfer coefficient ℎ, with good repeatability and sensitivity. Consequently, a non-invasive energy flow rate meter or (BTU) meter can be used to estimate the flow rate and the fluid temperature in real life.



Non-invasive flow meter, Heat Flux sensor (PHFS), Parallel thermocouples, Welded thermocouple, Thermal contact resistance, Heat transfer coefficient, Flow rate, Water temperature, Parameter estimation, Correlation, Time constant