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flow measurement[′flō ‚mezh·ər·mənt]
The determination of the quantity of a fluid, either a liquid, vapor, or gas, that passes through a pipe, duct, or open channel. Flow may be expressed as a rate of volumetric flow (such as liters per second, gallons per minute, cubic meters per second, cubic feet per minute), mass rate of flow (such as kilograms per second, pounds per hour), or in terms of a total volume or mass flow (integrated rate of flow for a given period of time).
Flow measurement, though centuries old, has become a science in the industrial age. This is because of the need for controlled process flows, stricter accounting methods, and more efficient operations, and because of the realization that most heating, cooling, and materials transport in the process industries is in the form of fluids, the flow rates of which are simple and convenient to control with valve or variable speed pumps. See Process control
Measurement is accomplished by a variety of means, depending upon the quantities, flow rates, and types of fluids involved. Many industrial process flow measurements consist of a combination of two devices: a primary device that is placed in intimate contact with the fluid and generates a signal, and a secondary device that translates this signal into a motion or a secondary signal for indicating, recording, controlling, or totalizing the flow. Other devices indicate or totalize the flow directly through the interaction of the flowing fluid and the measuring device that is placed directly or indirectly in contact with the fluid stream.