Developments in level measurement technology

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Charlie Sorbo, Level Product Manager for Gems Sensors and Controls, looks at the development of level measurement components and the recent innovations that are boosting performance and efficiency.

Developments in level measurement technologyLevel measurement was once limited to tools such as the sight glass, which were somewhat vulnerable to failure, especially in the presence of hazardous process materials. Happily, these devices have since been replaced by some significantly more advanced components based on a variety of principles. Some use the simple force of gravity, using a float to detect the level of the process fluid, while more complex sensors incorporating transducers may output signals for computer automation. Among the most familiar level measurement methods employed are RF capacitance, conductance (conductivity), hydrostatic gauging and ultrasonics. Offering compact size, durability and low cost, the current wave of level sensors are enabling a variety of sensing tasks in many applications, offering OEMs the opportunity to enhance and optimise their operations.

Side mount level switches in engineered plastic for high-temperature applications have proved to be a powerful innovation. These versatile components are currently available in a form that is compatible with a wide range of challenging fluids, such as oils and solvents, with resistance to temperatures of up to 300degF (148.9degC). As an affordable option for handling high-temperature applications and corrosive fluids, these switches have proved invaluable for use within methylene chloride and anti-freeze tanks, and are well suited for low coolant, low hydraulic monitoring within off-highway vehicle and transportation applications.

Conductivity sensors, which detect the level of water in fuel and lubricating oil, present a range of benefits. Historically, the presence of water in fuel would have more likely been discovered after some damage had been done, whereas today’s approaches prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Gems Sensors & Controls’ recent contribution to the development of conductivity sensing is the WIF-1250, a no-moving-parts product for use with fuel filters, and in compressor crank cases. The WIF-1250 contains integral, high-temperature-rated electronics that generate an alternating voltage to a probe tip. The presence of water completes the circuit, which, in turn, changes the condition of the transistor output. The output options of the sensor can be used to actuate relays, indicator lights or LEDs, as well as to interface with CMOS/TTL logic, PLCs or microprocessors.

To get the best from any component you need to ensure the right specification. In the case of level sensors this may be achieved most effectively by supplying your sensor supplier with a sample of the process material for evaluation, along with a diagram of the vessel. The effort will be worthwhile and ensure maximum performance with minimal maintenance requirements for your industrial and process operations.

Increasing the reliability of level measurement systems reduces the variability of process and product output, resulting in the measurable benefits of higher output quality, reduced cost and less waste. In addition, increasing legislation across industry sets stiff requirements for reliability and sustainability and the newest level measurement technologies are powerful tools in helping plant engineers to meet these goals.

Please visit to find out more about level measurement products from Gems Sensors and Controls.

26 September 2013

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