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Flow metering tutorial - Part 2: Pulse-based counting in


flow meters
Mohit Arora and Prashant Bhargava, Freescale Semiconductor, Inc. -June 28, 2012
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Introduction
In Part 1 of this series, we covered the fundamental concepts and principles incorporated by flow
meters along with various flow measurement methods used in mechanical flow meters. Part 2

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covers the pulse based counting method and the various sensors that are used in industry and
the way they generate different pulse waveforms to be used in variety of flow meters.
Pulse Counting Theory
The pulse counting method for flow measurement involves converting the kinetic energy from the
flowing fluid into rotation, detecting this rotation and converting it into electrical energy in the form
of digital pulses comprising '0's and '1's of varying periods in accordance with the flow being
measured. The periods of '0' and '1' can then be measured to determine the speed and direction
of rotation; hence determining the rate of flow and amount of fluid flown over a period of time.
Some flow measurement methods may generate analog signals that must be converted to digital
signals before being used by a Micro-controller unit (MCU). A fast flow generates
pulses/waveform of higher frequency while a slow flow generates low frequency
pulses/waveforms.

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Figure 1: Pulse Counting - Conversion of Kinetic Energy to Electric Energy


Figure 1 shows a representation of the pulse counting theory where the fluid flowing in a pipe
activates a mechanism to create rotation and a sensor to then generate the analog or digital
waveform. This waveform can be then measured using an MCU having a pulse counter.
Sensors based on Pulse Counting Theory
There are various sensors available that employ different techniques to generate electrical pulses
in accordance with the flow being measured. Some of the commonly employed sensors include:

Optical Sensors
Magnetic Sensors
Use of one sensor allows measurement of rotation without detecting the direction. A second
sensor makes it possible to also detect the direction of the rotation.
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Optical Sensors
Optical sensors sense light through a perforated disc which rotates when the fluid flows through
the meter. This sensor comprises a LED, a light sensor and a rotating disc located between LED
and the light sensor. Figure 2 shows the arrangement of the individual components of the optical
sensor.

Figure 2: Optical Sensors for Flow Measurement


The rotating disc is cut to make perforations in it which are encoded in different ways. The light
sensor or photo diode conducts current in accordance with the perforations on the disc to
generate pulses which can be measured using a counter on an MCU. The perforations on the
rotating disc can be encoded in:

2-bit or 3-bit Binary/Gray encoding


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2-bit Quadrature encoding


Figure 3 shows 3-bit Gray and Binary encoded discs. The white portions indicate the perforations
through which the LED is visible to the photo diode and will conduct. The black portions block the
LED and the photo diode does not conduct.

Figure 3: 3-bit encoded perforated disc


The output of the optical sensors is analog. Some sensors may include a comparator on-chip to
provide a digital output which can be counted using a count on a MCU.

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SensorsTechnology
Mohit Arora and Prashant Bhargava,

Highly educational and well written article. I wonder


why detector photodiodes are shown in Blue color and
LED in Red color? They are supposed to emit and
sense same color.

Dr. Shyam
Aug 20, 2013 6:19 PM EDT
0| 0 Reply

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