Electromagnetic (EM) flow meters are used to measure volume flow rates of electrically conductive fluids (e.g., low magnetic Reynolds number flows of seawater, milk, etc.) in pipe flows. The possibility of using a modified form of EM flow meter to nonobtrusively measure boundary-layer flow characteristics is analytically investigated in this paper. The device, named an electromagnetic boundary layer (EBL) probe, would have a velocity integral-dependent voltage induced between parallel wall-mounted electrodes, as a conductive fluid flows over a dielectric wall and through the probe’s magnetic field. The Shercliff-Bevir integral equation, taken from EM flow meter theory and design, is used as the basis of the analytical model for predicting EBL probe voltage outputs, given a specified probe geometry and boundary layer flow conditions. Predictions are made of the effective range of the nonobtrusive EBL probe in terms of electrode dimensions, the magnetic field size and strength, and boundary layer velocity profile and thickness. The analysis gives expected voltage calibration curves and shows that an array of paired electrodes would be a beneficial feature for probe design. A key result is that the EBL probe becomes a displacement thickness meter, if operated under certain conditions. That is, the output voltage was found to be directly proportional to the boundary layer displacement thickness, δ1, for a given free stream velocity.

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