Abstract

A noninvasive, thermal energy flowrate sensor based on a combination of heat flux and temperature measurements is developed for measuring the volume flowrate and the fluid temperature in a pipe. The sensor is covered by a thin-film heater and clamped onto the outer surface of the pipe. Two types of thin-film thermocouple elements are compared to minimize the thermal contact resistance R between the thermocouple and the surface of the pipe. A thin, flexible thermopile heat flux sensor (PHFS) is mounted over the thermocouples. A one-dimensional transient thermal model is applied before and during activation of the external heater to provide estimates of the fluid heat transfer coefficient h. The results are correlated with the volume flowrate Q and the fluid temperature Twc. Several different parameter estimation codes are used to estimate the optimal parameters by using the minimum root-mean-square (rms) error between the analytical and experimental sensor temperature values. The experiments are completed over a range of volume flowrates—1.3 gallons/min to 14.5 gallons/min. Encouraging measurement results give good correlation, repeatability, and sensitivity between the heat transfer coefficient h and the volume flowrate Q with an accurate estimation of the fluid temperature Twc. The resulting noninvasive thermal energy flowrate sensor can be used to estimate the volume flowrate and the fluid temperature in a variety of applications.

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