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ChE 253M -- Fundamentals Lab -- Experiment Guide

Liquid Flow Measurement -- Procedure & Report

by Prof. Willson, Dr. Friedman and the ChE Teaching Lab Faculty


Water In the Flow Meter Calibration section of this experiment, you could get water
on the concrete floor beyond the mats, which would be a slipping hazard. Plan your
manipulations to keep the concrete dry and clean-up any water beyond the mats.

Electrical In the Flow Meter Calibration section of this experiment, you could get
water on the powered equipment in the area. This would damage the equipment and
create an electric shock hazard. Plan your manipulations to keep the water away from
the equipment.

Glass In the Orifice and Venturi section, you will be using glass three-way valves
with long glass tubes. Handle them with great care; if you break them you will expose yourself to sharp glass.

Mercury You will be using mercury-in-glass manometer. Be very careful ....

For a safer lab, the (toxic) mercury manometer has been replaced with differential
pressure gauges and a blue fluid manometer.

Experimental Parameters

Diameter of the Orifice #1 throat:

Diameter of the Venturi throat:
Diameter of the pipe upstream of the Orifice:
Diameter of the pipe upstream of Venturi:
Specific Gravity of Blue Manometer Fluid:
Diameter of the Flow Visualization Tube:


Flow Meter

Sec. Std

Re 1

0.20 inches
0.25 inches
0.55 inches
0.50 inches
1.75 inches
Orifice & Venturi
Re 2
Re 3










Watch the NCFMF film, Turbulence, and read the accompanying guide (you may
overlook the equations in the guide).

Bring a USB memory stick to store and transfer your data.

Bring a camera to photograph the flow visualization experiment. (Please dont risk
losing an expensive camera. A good cell phone camera should be sufficient.)

The procedure and report requisites are presented below in paragraphs, because people usually speak in paragraphs and expect you to translate them into sequential lists
of steps and checklists of deliverables as needed. They are presented together, because drafting results as you take data is the best way to quality-assure your work.

In the sample calculations, show (a) linear regression calculations for the line (slope
and intercept) and confidence limits for any one calibration curve, and (b) calculations
of all measured and derived parameters: Reynolds Number, discharge coefficient, etc.

Use JMP and/or Excel for data analysis.

Experimental Procedure
Be certain that the discharge hose is in the drain trough. Open the supply water
valve to the apparatus. Open the supply air valve to the control valve actuator and adjust
the actuator to begin flow at about 10% on the rotameter. Look everything over: does
everything look OK? Turn on the magnetic-inductive flow meter and the pulse counters,
if they are off.
The pulse counters (HP 5314A Frequency Counters) are the read-out devices for
the magnetic-inductive and the turbine meters. They read-out in kilohertz (kHz); the indicated frequency is proportional to the measured flow rate. Before coming to lab, please
download the HP5314A manual and read its Figure 3-2, so you know the front panel operation of the frequency counters. You TA will mess-up the turbine flow meters frequency counter, and you will need to set it correctly.

Flow Meter Calibration

Procedure You have available (a) a graduated cylinder for measuring volume directly, (b) a calibrated balance for measuring weight, (c) a thermometer and (d) a calibrated stopwatch, to use in whatever manner your lab group decides, to measure the volumetric flow rate passing through the system, thereby serving as your primary standard. There
is no proscribed method for making these measurements, so please use what you know
about measurement uncertainty to devise as exact of a method as possible. In the Methods section of your report, please discuss your procedure and the logic you used to arrive
at such a technique.
Begin the calibration by setting the water flow to read F1 of the maximum reading
on the rotameter. Reduce the water flow in four even steps to a minimum of 10% of the
maximum reading. Use the "primary standard," described above, to measure the volumetric flow rate passing through the system. Convert readings taken with the primary
standard to mL/s. At three flow rates (low, medium and high), take at least three primary
standard flow measurements. Use them to calculate the standard deviation of the measurement.
Divide the team so that some members make the primary standard measurement
while others record readings for the magnetic-inductive meter, the turbine meter, the ultrasonic meter and the rotameter. The magnetic-inductive meter, the turbine meter, the
ultrasonic meter and the rotameter measure flow rate approximately instantaneously; the
primary standard measures flow rate integrated over the measurement period. How
should you take the meter readings so they are compatible with your primary standard
Note: Before taking readings from the frequency counter on the turbine flow meter, set its front panel switches correctly and adjust its knobs to maximize the signal (frequency) at flow F1. (Your TA has messed-up these settings, but you read the manual
before coming to lab, so you know how to set them correctly.)
Immediately plot the primary standard readings (mL/s) vs. the secondary standard
flow meter readings. (Does the plot describe a satisfactory line? If not, you can take
more data.) Determine the least squares equation to calibrate the secondary standard to
the primary standard. You will need this calibration in the next part of the experiment.
Report Present the data points and the regression line for each flow meter. Fit
an equation of the form of y = mx + b, where x is the flow rate (mL/s) measured by the
primary standard, y is the output of the instrument being calibrated, and m and b are the
calibration slope and intercept. Plot the regression lines and 95% confidence intervals.
Plot the data points with y-axis error bars equal to plus and minus the rms error calculated
for the regression. (The rms error is also called the standard error of estimate (se).)

You calculated the linear regression with x = standard and y = instrument, rather
than x = instrument and y = standard. That arrangement assumes that the errors of the
instrument measurement are substantially greater than those of the primary standard, because linear regression assumes errors on the y-axis are substantially greater than those on
the x-axis. Are they? Compare the standard deviation of the primary standard measurements to the rms error of the instrument measurements. Is the assumption valid or violated?
Use your calibration equations to convert instrument output, e.g., counts/s, to
common units (mL/s). Using this data, plot (QEXPT QSTD) vs. QSTD for each flow meter.
Plot them all on one graph, so you can compare overall accuracy visually. Why must all
flow rates be expressed in the same unit (mL/s), rather than reading units such as
counts/s, when comparing accuracy and precision?
Compare the precision and accuracy of the flow meters. Pick the best, and explain qualitatively and/or quantitatively how you reached this conclusion. Is the device
you picked the most accurate device over all flow rate ranges? (Hint: Look at the difference plot.) Was the flow meter specified as the secondary standard the best?
What factors besides precision and accuracy are important in choosing a flow meter for a particular application? Give specific examples of where each device might best
be used.

Orifice Plate and Venturi Calibration

Procedure Calculate the flow rates (mL/s) required to produce Reynolds Numbers of Re1, Re2, and Re3 through the orifice plate, and calculate the Reynolds Numbers
these flow rates produce at the venturi throat. (Do these calculations before you come to
lab, using the density and viscosity of water at 20C.) Determine the readings required on
the secondary standard flow meter to achieve these flows by using its calibration equation. You will use the calibrated secondary standard as the flow rate standard for calibrating the orifice plate and venturi.
Understand the plumbing for measuring differential pressure. Trace the tubing
from the orifice and venturi to the glass three-way valves and from the valves to the differential pressure panel. Look at the holes in the glass valve stem to see the flow path
through the valve. Trace the tubing behind the pressure gauge panel. Which side of the
gauges, high or low pressure, is switched by the gauge selector valve? Which side is in
Before measuring each differential pressure, set the gauge selector valve to #1, the
highest pressure gauge. Read the pressure on gauge #1 and determine whether it is less
than the maximum pressure for gauge #2. If the pressure is low enough, turn the gauge
selector clockwise to #2. Repeat this for gauge #2 to #3 and #3 to #4, if permissible.

Values of "low enough" are marked on the pressure gauge panel. They are given to prevent over-pressure damage to the lower pressure gauges.
The objective is to read the pressure from the two lowest range gauges. The
gauge with the lowest range has the best resolution and often the best accuracy, because
error often is a percentage of full-scale range. But a full set of measurements probably
will require readings on two or three different gauges. For example, as the flow rate is
increased, the pressure drop across the orifice might be measured on Gauge #3, then #2
and finally #1. Though these are industrial quality gauges, they are not exactly matched:
the same pressure could give somewhat different reading on two different gauges. The
difference between gauges could give a step discontinuity in the pressure vs. flow rate
curve. To have information to smooth this discontinuity, take pressure readings from the
two lowest range gauges.
Adjust the control valve to obtain the first of the three calculated flow rates, as
read on the ultrasonic meter. The actual ultrasonic meter reading will not exactly match
your prescription, but it should be close. Now, measure the various pressure drops. Position the three-way valves to measure the pressure drop (a) across the orifice plate, (b) upstream and downstream of the orifice, (c) across the venturi throat, and (d) upstream and
downstream of the venturi. Before measuring each differential pressure, set the gauge
selector valve to #1, the highest pressure gauge.
Repeat these measurements for the other Reynolds Numbers.
Report Tabulate the actual flow rates, the actual orifice and venturi Reynolds
Numbers, the pressure drops across the orifice and venturi throats, and the upstreamdownstream pressure drops across the orifice and venturi meters.
Plot flow rate vs. throat pressure drop for the orifice and the venturi. Sketch a
smooth curve through the points. Does the curve have, at least roughly, shape expected
based on the working equation for obstruction meters?
At each Reynolds number, calculate the discharge coefficients of the orifice plate
and the venturi and add them to the table. Explain the discharge coefficient, how and
why it varies with Reynolds number, and why it would be different for the orifice and the
The upstream-downstream pressure drop is the "permanent pressure loss" of the
meter. Explain why the pressure loss of the two meters is different. Which instrument,
orifice or venturi, would have lower pumping costs?

Visual Determination of Turbulence

Procedure Observe the trail of green food coloring introduced into the flow visualization tube (at the top of the apparatus) to see laminar, transition and turbulent flow.
At low Reynolds Numbers the flow is laminar, and, in an ideal apparatus with an ideal
dye, the dye would travel straight with the liquid without being disturbed or mixed with
the bulk of the liquid. In our apparatus, the coloring plume moves mostly in one direction
and maintains integrity, but it does not maintain itself as a line. Why? At high Reynolds
numbers the flow is turbulent, and the coloring is rapidly mixed with the bulk of the liquid near the point of introduction.
There is no proscribed method for introducing dye into the water stream, so please
experiment and devise a method that optimizes flow visualization. In the Methods section of your report, please discuss your procedure and the logic you used to arrive at it.
Begin with a low (laminar) water flow rate and begin introducing dye into the stream.
(Your TA will fill the burette with dilute food coloring.) Adjust the burette's flow rate to
optimize flow visualization. Is there a connection between the water flow rate and the
optimum dye flow rate? Try introducing puffs of dye, rather than a steady stream. Some
people report that puffs give better visualization. Do not confine your observations to the
narrow region immediately downstream of the dye injection point; other regions may be
better for flow visualization.
Scan the water flow rate from low to high, so you can visualize the difference between laminar and turbulent flow. Return to low flow and increase the water flow rate
slowly, observing the point at which transitional (random) motion begins to affect the dye
pattern. Repeat this observation until you are satisfied, and record the "ending laminar"
flow rate on the calibrated ultrasonic flow meter.
Starting at high water flow, decrease the flow rate slowly, observing the point at
which laminar flow resumes. Repeat this observation until you are satisfied, and record
the "resuming laminar" flow rate on the calibrated ultrasonic flow meter. Do not force
your "ending laminar " and "resuming laminar" flow rates to be the same, as they may not
Report Include a page of photos showing laminar, transition and turbulent flow
visualized in the tube. Briefly explain why you have identified these photos with those
flow regimes.
Tabulate the "ending" and "beginning laminar" flow rates you observed, along
with the corresponding Reynolds Numbers. Discuss the difficulties in defining the transition from laminar to turbulent in this experiment. The Moody Chart (below) says the
laminar flow ends at Reynolds Numbers of 2000 to 3000 and transition to turbulent flow
is complete by Re 10000. Compare your particular observation with this rule-of-thumb.

Figure 1. Moody Chart of Friction Factor vs. Reynolds Number

(Source: Dr. Maji at the University of Tennessee Space Institute)