Innovators at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center have developed a suite of prototype fluid plug technologies with an array of capabilities for fluid flow metering, mixing, and conditioning. Each innovation within this suite is based upon a core technology that has no moving parts, is simple to manufacture, and provides high reliability and efficiency. Also, the base fluid plug technology can be modified with very few or no hardware changes to achieve the desired effect or combination of mixing, metering, and conditioning capabilities depending on the application.
The suite of innovations includes: a fluid-mixing plug with metering capabilities; an unbalanced-flow, fluid-mixing plug with metering capabilities; a flow meter plug with length-to-hole size uniformity; and an eddy-current-minimized flow plug for use in flow conditioning and flow metering. The suite consists of variations of the same base innovation — a fluid plate or plug of varying thickness that is simple to install and can be mounted between two flanges in a fluid-flow conduit, or can be threaded or welded into the conduit. In some curved-pipe applications, the device can be integrated into a pipe fitting, bend, elbow, or tee.
The face of the plug features several ports through which fluid flows. The orientation and position of these ports vary, depending on the needs of a specific application. The design balances fluid flow and kinetic energy across the plug face to create the desired flow effect. The device can smooth the fluid flow for superior conditioning, decrease turbulence for highly accurate metering, or increase turbulence to enhance fluid mixing. For example, discrete openings parallel to the fluid flow will decrease turbulence for accurate metering and conditioning. Other shapes of fluid openings can be introduced to change flow velocity or energy. The openings can also contain tapers and/or be directed along an unparallel path to the flow conduit to induce fluid mixing. In addition, the open flow area of the plug can be more heavily weighted on one side to amplify or offset the fluid effects around bends.
This technology can be used in chemical processing facilities, manufacturing facilities, ground test facilities, industrial processing, petro-chemical processing, mechanical operations, mining, water analysis, liquid rocket engines, space propulsion, spray nozzles, variable orifice stream jets, Venturi applications, density measurements, flow conditioners, and pump inlets.