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Mass flow meter

A mass flow meter of the coriolis type

A mass flow meter, also known as an inertial flow meter is a device that measures mass flow
rate of a fluid traveling through a tube. The mass flow rate is the mass of the fluid traveling past a
fixed point per unit time.
The mass flow meter does not measure the volume per unit time (e.g., cubic meters per second)
passing through the device; it measures the mass per unit time (e.g., kilograms per second) flowing
through the device. Volumetric flow rate is the mass flow rate divided by the fluid density. If the
density is constant, then the relationship is simple. If the fluid has varying density, then the
relationship is not simple. The density of the fluid may change with temperature, pressure, or
composition, for example. The fluid may also be a combination of phases such as a fluid with
entrained bubbles. Actual density can be determined due to dependency of sound velocity on the
controlled liquid concentration.[1]


 1Operating principle of a Coriolis flow meter

 2Density and volume measurements
 3Calibration

Operating principle of a Coriolis flow meter[edit]

There are two basic configurations of coriolis flow meter: the curved tube flow meter and
the straight tube flow meter. This article discusses the curved tube design.
Rotation without mass flow.
double sized version

With mass flow the tubes twist slightly.

double sized version
A rotating mass flow meter as illustration of the operating principle.

The animations on the right do not represent an actually existing Coriolis flow meter design. The
purpose of the animations is to illustrate the operating principle, and to show the connection with
Fluid is being pumped through the mass flow meter. When there is mass flow, the tube twists
slightly. The arm through which fluid flows away from the axis of rotation must exert a force on the
fluid, to increase its angular momentum, so it bends backwards. The arm through which fluid is
pushed back to the axis of rotation must exert a force on the fluid to decrease the fluid's angular
momentum again, hence that arm will bend forward. In other words, the inlet arm (containing an
outwards directed flow), is lagging behind the overall rotation, the part which in rest is parallel to
the axis is now skewed, and the outlet arm (containing an inwards directed flow) leads the overall
The vibration pattern during no-flow.
double sized version

The vibration pattern with mass flow.

double sized version
The principle design of a curved tube mass flow meter.

The animation on the right represents how curved tube mass flow meters are designed. The fluid
is led through two parallel tubes. An actuator (not shown) induces equal counter vibrations on the
sections parallel to the axis, to make the measuring device less sensitive to outside vibrations. The
actual frequency of the vibration depends on the size of the mass flow meter, and ranges from 80
to 1000 Hz. The amplitude of the vibration is too small to be seen, but it can be felt by touch.
When no fluid is flowing, the motion of the two tubes is symmetrical, as shown in the left animation.
The animation on the right illustrates what happens during mass flow: some twisting of the tubes.
The arm carrying the flow away from the axis of rotation must exert a force on the fluid to accelerate
the flowing mass to the vibrating speed of the tubes at the outside (increase of absolute angular
momentum), so it is lagging behind the overall vibration. The arm through which fluid is pushed
back towards the axis of movement must exert a force on the fluid to decrease the fluid's absolute
angular speed (angular momentum) again, hence that arm leads the overall vibration.
The inlet arm and the outlet arm vibrate with the same frequency as the overall vibration, but when
there is mass flow the two vibrations are out of sync: the inlet arm is behind, the outlet arm is
ahead. The two vibrations are shifted in phase with respect to each other, and the degree of phase-
shift is a measure for the amount of mass that is flowing through the tubes.
Density and volume measurements[edit]

The mass flow of a u-shaped coriolis flow meter is given as:

where Ku is the temperature dependent stiffness of the tube, K a shape-dependent factor, d the
width, τ the time lag, ω the vibration frequency and Iu the inertia of the tube. As the inertia of the
tube depend on its contents, knowledge of the fluid density is needed for the calculation of an
accurate mass flow rate.
If the density changes too often for manual calibration to be sufficient, the coriolis flow meter can
be adapted to measure the density as well. The natural vibration frequency of the flow tubes
depend on the combined mass of the tube and the fluid contained in it. By setting the tube in motion
and measuring the natural frequency, the mass of the fluid contained in the tube can be deduced.
Dividing the mass on the known volume of the tube gives us the density of the fluid.
An instantaneous density measurement allows the calculation of flow in volume per time by dividing
mass flow with density.

Both mass flow and density measurements depend on the vibration of the tube. Calibration is
affected by changes in the rigidity of the flow tubes.
Changes in temperature and pressure will cause the tube rigidity to change, but these can be
compensated for through pressure and temperature zero and span compensation factors.
Additional effects on tube rigidity will cause shifts in the calibration factor over time due to
degradation of the flow tubes. These effects include pitting, cracking, coating, erosion or corrosion.
It is not possible to compensate for these changes dynamically, but efforts to monitor the effects
may be made through regular meter calibration or verification checks. If a change is deemed to
have occurred, but is considered to be acceptable, the offset may be added to the existing
calibration factor to ensure continued accurate measurement.


A Mass Flow Meter operating on the "Coriolis principle" contains a vibrating tube in which a
fluid flow causes changes in frequency, phase shift or amplitude. The sensor signal is fed into
the integrally mounted pc-board. The resulting output signal is strictly proportional to the real
mass flow rate, whereas thermal mass flow meters are dependent of the physical properties of
the fluid. Coriolis mass flow measurement is fast and very accurate.
Schematic of a Coriolis flow sensor
mini CORI-FLOW Coriolis Mass Flow Meter, principle of operation
In this video Bronkhorst, manufacturer of the world's smallest Coriolis flow meters, presents
the mechanism of a Coriolis mass flow meter from the mini CORI-FLOW series. The video
also explains how the flow can be adjusted quickly and precisely through the combined use
of a Coriolis mass flow meter and a gear pump.

Coriolis versus Thermal Mass Flow for Gases and

 Fluid independent flow measurement and control - no need for recalibration
 Gas and liquid can be measured with the same sensor
 Ability to measure undefined or variable mixtures
 Suitable for supercritical fluids (e.g. CO2, C2H4)
 Same compact footprint
 High accuracy ± 0.2% of rate ± zero stability for liquids ± 0.5% of rate ± zero stability for gases
 Large turndown range of up to 1:2000
 Fast sensor response time: down to 50...100 msec
Check out our Coriolis product range