Optical Measurement of Mass Flow of a Two-Phase Fluid

Density and mass flow are estimated from wavelength-dependent scattering of light.

An optoelectronic system utilizes wavelength-dependent scattering of light for measuring the density and mass flow of a two-phase fluid in a pipe. The apparatus was invented for original use in measuring the mass flow of a twophase cryogenic fluid (e.g., liquid hydrogen containing bubbles of hydrogen gas), but underlying principles of operation can readily be adapted to non-cryogenic two-phase fluids.

The system (see figure) includes a laser module, which contains two or more laser diodes, each operating at a different wavelength. The laser module also contains beam splitters that combine the beams at the various wavelengths so as to produce two output beams, each containing all of the wavelengths. One of the multiwavelength output beams is sent, via a multimode fiberoptic cable, to a transmitting optical coupler. The other multiwavelength output beam is sent, via another multimode fiber-optic cable, to a reference detector module, wherein fiber-optic splitters split the light into several multiwavelength beams, each going to a photodiode having a spectral response that is known and that differs from the spectral responses of the other photodiodes. The outputs of these photodiodes are digitized and fed to a processor, which executes an algorithm that utilizes the known spectral responses to convert the photodiode outputs to obtain reference laser-power levels for the various wavelengths.

Laser Light at Multiple Wavelengths is introduced into a two-phase fluid in a pipe at one point. After scattering by the fluid, the light is detected at multiplepoints on the opposite side of the pipe.
The transmitting optical coupler is mounted in (and sealed to) a hole in the pipe and is oriented at a slant with respect to the axis of the pipe. The transmitting optical coupler contains a collimating lens and a cylindrical lens that form the light emerging from the end of the fiber-optic cable into a fan-shaped beam in a meridional plane of the pipe. Receiving optical couplers similar to the transmitting optical couplers are mounted in the same meridional plane at various longitudinal positions on the opposite side of the pipe, approximately facing the transmitting optical coupler along the same slant.

Light collected by each receiving optical coupler is sent, via a multimode fiber-optic cable, to a detector module similar to the reference detector module. The outputs of the photodiodes in each detector module are digitized and processed, similarly to those of the reference detector module, to obtain indications of the amounts of light of each wavelength scattered to the corresponding receiving position. The value for each wavelength at each position is also normalized to the reference laser-power level for that wavelength. From these normalized values, the density and the mass flow rate of the fluid are estimated.

This work was done by John Wiley and Kevin Pedersen of Marshall Space Flight Center, Valentin Korman of Madison Research Corp., and Don Gregory of the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

This invention is owned by NASA, and a patent application has been filed. For further information, contact Sammy Nabors, MSFC Commercialization Assistance Lead, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Refer to MFS-32031-1.

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