A Full Overview: How Does a Vortex Flow Meter Work?

by Anna

In the realm of industrial processes and fluid measurement, precision is paramount. Accurate and reliable flow measurement is crucial for various applications, from ensuring the efficient operation of pipelines in the oil and gas industry to maintaining the quality of chemicals in manufacturing processes. One technology that has gained significant prominence in achieving precise flow measurement is the vortex flow meter. This article explores the principles behind vortex flow meters, their components, and their applications across various industries.

The Basics of Flow Measurement

Before delving into the intricacies of vortex flow meters, it’s essential to understand the fundamental principles of flow measurement. Flow meters are instruments used to quantify the rate at which fluids (liquids, gases, or steam) move through a pipeline or conduit. Accurate flow measurement is vital for several reasons, including optimizing processes, controlling costs, ensuring safety, and complying with regulations.


There are various types of flow meters available, each employing distinct mechanisms to measure flow rates. These include differential pressure meters, electromagnetic flow meters, ultrasonic flow meters, and vortex flow meters, among others. In this article, our focus is on vortex flow meters.


An Overview of Vortex Flow Meters

Vortex flow meters are widely used in industries that require precise measurements of fluid flow rates. These instruments operate on the principle of the von Kármán effect, which involves the generation of vortex shedding behind an obstruction placed in the path of a flowing fluid. This shedding of vortices creates a repeating pattern of swirls or eddies, which can be harnessed to determine the fluid’s velocity and, consequently, its flow rate.


Vortex flow meters offer several advantages over other flow measurement technologies. They are highly reliable, have a wide range of applications, are suitable for both liquid and gas measurement, and are relatively low maintenance. Additionally, they are not affected by changes in fluid density, making them particularly versatile in various industrial processes.


The Working Principle of Vortex Flow Meters

Understanding how vortex flow meters work requires a closer look at their key components and the principles governing their operation. A typical vortex flow meter consists of the following main elements:

1. Shedding Body or Bluff Body

The shedding body, also known as a bluff body, is a solid object placed perpendicular to the direction of fluid flow. Its primary purpose is to create disturbances in the flowing fluid, leading to the formation of vortices.

2. Piezoelectric Sensor

This sensor is positioned downstream of the shedding body and is responsible for detecting the pressure fluctuations caused by the vortex shedding. Piezoelectric materials generate an electrical signal in response to mechanical stress, making them ideal for capturing the pressure variations associated with vortex formation.

3. Signal Processing Unit

The electrical signal generated by the piezoelectric sensor is transmitted to a signal processing unit. This unit analyzes the signal to determine the frequency and amplitude of the pressure fluctuations, which are directly related to the vortex shedding frequency and, consequently, the fluid flow rate.
Now, let’s take a closer look at how these components work together to measure fluid flow:

Step 1: Vortex Shedding

As the fluid flows past the shedding body, it encounters resistance. This resistance leads to the formation of vortices, or swirling patterns of fluid, behind the bluff body.

Step 2: Pressure Fluctuations

The vortices shed at a specific frequency, which is determined by the fluid velocity and the dimensions of the bluff body. As these vortices pass over the piezoelectric sensor downstream, they cause pressure fluctuations in the fluid. These pressure fluctuations manifest as alternating high and low-pressure regions.

Step 3: Signal Detection

The piezoelectric sensor is highly sensitive to these pressure fluctuations. When subjected to these pressure changes, it generates an electrical signal with a frequency corresponding to the vortex shedding frequency. This signal is then transmitted to the signal processing unit for further analysis.

Step 4: Flow Rate Calculation

The signal processing unit calculates the fluid flow rate based on the frequency of the electrical signal. By using the known relationship between the shedding frequency, fluid velocity, and flow rate, the meter accurately determines the flow rate of the fluid passing through the pipe.
It’s important to note that the accuracy of the flow measurement depends on several factors, including the design of the bluff body, the sensitivity of the piezoelectric sensor, and the signal processing algorithms. Manufacturers often calibrate vortex flow meters to ensure their accuracy across a specified range of flow rates and fluid properties.

Applications of Vortex Flow Meters

Vortex flow meters find applications in a wide range of industries due to their versatility, accuracy, and ability to handle various fluid types. Some notable applications include:

1. Oil and Gas Industry

Vortex flow meters are used for measuring the flow of crude oil, natural gas, and refined products in pipelines. They play a crucial role in custody transfer applications, where accurate measurement is essential for financial transactions.

2. Chemical Manufacturing

In chemical plants, vortex flow meters are employed to monitor the flow of chemicals, ensuring precise dosing and maintaining product quality.

3. HVAC Systems

Vortex flow meters are used in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to measure the flow of air and water. This data helps in optimizing temperature control and energy efficiency.

4. Food and Beverage Industry

In food and beverage processing, vortex flow meters measure the flow of liquids, gases, and steam, ensuring accurate ingredient mixing and quality control.

5. Water and Wastewater Treatment

Vortex flow meters are used to monitor the flow of water and wastewater in treatment plants, helping to ensure efficient and environmentally responsible processes.

FAQs About Vortex Flow Meters

Let’s address some frequently asked questions about vortex flow meters to enhance your understanding of this technology:

FAQ 1: What is the von Kármán effect, and how does it relate to vortex flow meters?

The von Kármán effect is a phenomenon where vortices are formed behind an obstacle placed in the path of a fluid flow. This effect is the fundamental principle behind the operation of vortex flow meters. The shedding of vortices behind the bluff body is used to measure the fluid flow rate.

FAQ 2: Can vortex flow meters be used for measuring the flow of corrosive fluids?

Yes, vortex flow meters can be used to measure the flow of corrosive fluids. However, it’s essential to select materials for the meter’s construction that are compatible with the specific fluid to prevent damage or deterioration.

FAQ 3: Are vortex flow meters affected by changes in fluid temperature and pressure?

Vortex flow meters are relatively insensitive to changes in fluid temperature and pressure. This is one of their advantages, as they can provide accurate measurements under varying conditions. However, it’s crucial to consider the fluid properties and select an appropriate vortex flow meter design to ensure accuracy in extreme temperature or pressure environments.

FAQ 4: Do vortex flow meters require regular calibration?

Yes, like all flow measurement devices, vortex flow meters should undergo periodic calibration to maintain their accuracy. The calibration frequency depends on factors such as the application, fluid properties, and the manufacturer’s recommendations. Regular calibration helps ensure that the meter remains within its specified accuracy limits.

FAQ 5: How can I choose the right vortex flow meter for my application?

Selecting the right vortex flow meter involves considering factors such as the type of fluid, flow rate range, pipe size, and environmental conditions. It’s advisable to consult with a flow measurement expert or the meter’s manufacturer to determine the most suitable model for your specific requirements.


Vortex flow meters are a crucial tool for achieving accurate and reliable flow measurements in various industrial applications. Their ability to harness the von Kármán effect to create vortices and convert them into precise flow rate measurements makes them indispensable in industries ranging from oil and gas to chemical manufacturing. By understanding the principles behind vortex flow meters, their components, and their advantages, you can make informed decisions when selecting and implementing these instruments in your processes. Whether you’re striving for optimal process efficiency or compliance with industry standards, vortex flow meters are a trusted solution for your flow measurement needs.

You may also like


Our Mechanical Center is a mechanical portal. The main columns include general machineryinstrumentationElectrical Equipmentchemical equipment, environmental protection equipment, knowledge, news, etc.

Copyright © 2023