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Ionization Based Multi-directional Flow Sensor


The Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is seeking licensing partners interested in implementing United States Patent Number 7,523,673 titled "Ionization Based Multi-directional Flow Sensor."

Disclosed in this patent is NETL’s sensor system and process for multidirectional, real-time monitoring of the flow direction and velocity of a gas stream, with minimal pressure drop, such as air flow in a hybrid power generation system. The sensor comprises an ion source accompanied by a multidirectional ion collection device near the ion source. Possible applications include power generation and weather monitoring.


To optimize the performance of certain industrial processes or apparatus, such as hybrid power generation systems consisting of a fuel cell and a turbine, for example, it is necessary to know the flow direction and velocity of gases such as air through the system. Differential pressure sensors have been used for this purpose, but they can measure flow only in one direction, are slow to respond, and require a high pressure differential to provide accurate flow measurements.

NETL researchers have developed a novel method of using a flame to ionize the gas (similar to a flame ionization detector) and a plurality of electrode pairs arranged along common flow axes to collect the ions. The axis of electrode pairs responding to the ion flow determines the flow direction; the rate of ion collection per unit time determines the flow velocity. This sensor has no moving parts and is effective in low-pressure differential conditions.


This technology provides:

  • A method of monitoring air flow in hybrid power generation systems and other applications where determination of gas flow velocity and direction are important
  • A means to monitor air flows in low-pressure-differential conditions
  • High-speed, real-time results

Related Patents

U.S. Patent No. 7,523,673, issued April 28, 2009, titled "Ionization Based Multi-Directional Flow Sensor.”

Inventors: Benjamin Chorpening, Kent Casleton

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