Acoustic gauge monitoring of fluid inventory in a microgravity vortex separator
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The careful monitoring of fluid inventory being essential to the successful operation of two-phase vortex separation, the applicability of an ultrasonic acoustic gauge to monitor and maintain this inventory was demonstrated. Once validated, the hydrodynamic limits for steady vortex operation were determined. Data were collected using NASA's reduced gravity aircraft, the 4 diameter two-phase vortex separator designed and built by Texas A&M University and an ultrasonic transducer and thickness gauge from Panametrics, Inc. Pearson linear regression was used to determine the correlation of the expected fluid film thickness with the indicated thickness by the gauge. The feasibility and reliability of the acoustic sensor as an operating volume monitor for the phase separator were affirmed by both the analytical and experimental results, both affirming the accuracy of thickness measurements by the gauge for this application. Operational limits were statistically determined such that the film thickness should be kept between 1.956 cm and an upper limit of 3.175 cm. The applicability of acoustic measurements to monitoring separator inventory was supported by both analytical modelling and the resulting experiment. An acoustic sensing system in conjunction with control software ensured that the varying liquid volume in the separator remained within determined hydrodynamic limits during operation. 2006 IOP Publishing Ltd.