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Rotameter



A Rotameter is a device that measures the flow rate of liquid or gas in a closed tube. It is occasionally misspelled as 'rotometer'.

Additional recommended knowledge

It belongs to a class of meters called variable area meters, which measure flow rate by allowing the cross sectional area the fluid travels through to vary, causing some measurable effect.

A rotameter consists of a tapered tube, typically made of glass, with a float inside that is pushed up by flow and pulled down by gravity. At a higher flow rate more area (between the float and the tube) is needed to accommodate the flow, so the float rises. Floats are made in many different shapes, with spheres and spherical ellipses being the most common. The float is shaped so that it rotates axially as the fluid passes. This allows you to tell if the float is stuck since it will only rotate if it is not. Readings are usually taken from the top of the float. Some manufacturers may use a different standard, so it is always best to check the documentation provided with the device.

Note that the 'float' does not actually float in the fluid: it has to have a higher density than the fluid otherwise it will float to the top even if there is no flow.

Advantages:

  • A rotameter requires no external power or fuel, it uses only the inherent properties of the fluid, along with gravity, to measure flow rate.
  • A rotameter is also a relatively simple device that can be mass manufactured out of cheap materials, allowing for widespread use in places such as third world countries.

Disavantages:

  • Due to its use of gravity, a rotameter must always be vertically oriented and right way up, with the fluid flowing upwards.
  • Due to its reliance on the ability of the fluid or gas to displace the float, the graduations on a given rotameter will only be accurate for a given substance. The main property of importance is the density of the fluid, however viscosity may also be significant. Floats are ideally designed to be insensitive to viscosity, however this is seldom verifiable from manufacturers specs. Either separate rotameters for different densities and viscosities may be used, or multiple scales on the same rotameter can be utilized.
  • Rotameters normally require the use of glass (or other transparent material), otherwise the user cannot see the float. This limits their use in many industries to benign fluids, such as water.
  • Rotameters are not easily adapted for reading by machine: although magnetic floats that drive a follower outside the tube are available.

History

The first variable area meter with rotating float was invented by Karl Kueppers in Aachen in 1908. This is described in the German patent 215225. Felix Meyer found the first industrial company "Deutsche Rotawerke GmbH" in Aachen recognizing the fundamental importance of this invention. They improved this invention with new shapes of the float and of the glass tube. Kueppers invented the special shape for the inside of the glass tube that realized a symmetrical flow scale. The brand name Rotameter was registered by the British company GEC Rotameter Co, in Crawley, and still exists, having been passed down through the acquisition chain: KDG Instruments, Solartron Mobrey, and Emerson Process Management. Rota with their "Rotamesser" are now owned by Yokogawa Electric Corp.

 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Rotameter". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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