Air Flow Meter Sensor: What Are They? (And Types)

What is an Air Flow Meter?

An air flow meter (also known as a mass air flow sensor) is a device that allows you to measure the rate of airflow. This means that an air meter measures the velocity of air. In addition to velocity, airflow meters have the ability to measure air pressure as well. Some airflow meters are even capable of detecting the direction of the wind.

Air Flow Meter Types

There are four main types of air flow meters:

  1. Hot Wire Air Flow Meter
  2. Vane Air Flow Meter
  3. Cup Anemometer
  4. Pitot Tube Air Flow Meter

Hot Wire Air Flow Meter

Hotwire air flow meters use a hot wire mass airflow sensor to measure the flow rate of air. These sensors are made of short, circular-shaped platinum or tungsten-like resistive wires which are heated in prior up to a certain degree of temperature.

These sensors are then placed in central position across the air stream. The flowing air cools-off the wire which in turn causes its resistance to drop-off. This drop in the resistance of the wire gives a measure of its flow rate.

Vane Air Flow Meter

These air flow meters employ vane type mass air flow sensors to measure the amount of air passing through them. Basically, they comprise of a metered vane which is placed along the direction of the flowing air.

This vane will be connected to a spring and usually be placed in its rest position. However once the air starts to flow, this vane will get displaced under the pressure of the spring. This deflection is converted into the voltage signal with the help of a potentiometer which is then used to determine the rate of air flow.

Cup Anemometer

This kind of air flow meter has an arrangement of vertical shaft which supports the horizontal arms carrying four hemispherical cups. At any instant of time, there would be atleast one cup facing the direction along which the air flows.

As a result, flowing wind causes the shaft attached to the device to rotate. The number of turns made by the shaft over a particular interval of time would give us a measure of speed with which the wind blows across it.

Pitot Tube Air Flow Meter

These air flow meters are usually employed in aircrafts to measure the air speed. They can be either impact or cantilever or static in nature. In pitot-static type, the pitot tube will comprise of two ports pitot and static. Generally, the pitot port is inserted into the duct so as to face the air flow.

Here a pitot port measures the dynamic pressure of airflow, while the static port gives an estimate of the static pressure from the small holes present along the tube-side. The difference between these two pressures gives a measure of flow rate of air.

Air Flow Meter Applications

Air flow meters are used in a variety of industries. Some of their applications include:

  1. Air meters are used in many industries to achieve proper ratio of fuel to compressed air which in turn leads to efficient ignition, and hence maximum flame.
  2. Air meters are used as safety devices in hazardous environments such as mining and nuclear power plants, in which people are subjective to heavy risks.
  3. Airflow meters when used as a component in automobiles, ensuring that the proper amount of air enters into the internal combustion engine.
  4. Ventilation installations also use air flow meters to monitor the air which flows through them.

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