Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Gretar Tryggvason, Department Head

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

William W. Durgin, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Suzanne L. Weekes, Reader

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Julie Mullen, Reader

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

John M. Sullivan, Jr., Committee Member


Hamid Johari




This study was conducted to examine the effect of flow turbulence on sound waves propagating across a velocity field. The resulting information can be used to determine the potential for increasing the accuracy of an ultrasonic flowmeter, and understand the data scatter typically seen when using an ultrasonic flowmeter. A modification of the Ray Trace Method was employed which enabled the use of multiple rays in a very fine grid through a flow field. This technique allowed for the computation of the statistical variation of the propagation times for sound pulses traversing a flow field. The statistical variation was studied using two flow fields: 1) a uniform flow field with a superimposed vortex street and 2) an experimentally measured channel flow. The uniform flow field with a superimposed vortex street allowed for the examination of the effects of a large-scale flow structure on sound wave propagation, and for the verification of the analysis technique. Next by using the measured turbulent channel flow, as an example, the statistical variation of sound pulse propagation time was computed for flow likely to be encountered in actual flow measurement situations. Analysis was also conducted to determine the maximum allowable repetition rate of measurements with regard to the optimal time of flight measurements. Both the propagation time of a sound pulse moving across a uniform flow field with superimposed vortex street, and the resultant computed flow were observed to vary at the same frequency of the vortex street. Further, the magnitude of the variations was proportional with the strength of the individual vortices in the vortex street. A sound pulse propagating back and forth across a measured turbulent channel flow, afforded individual time difference variation from the mean propagation time of up to 5%. It was shown that a minimum variation occurred when the sound pulses were transmitted at a 75 degree angle to the flow axis. It was also determined that the average speed of sound in a flow field affected the final flow measurements by decreasing the measured delta time difference between the upstream and downstream propagating sound waves, and therefore the measured flow. The width of the sound path also contributed to decreasing the variation of the individual measurements by integrating over a larger sound path. These findings suggest that turbulence in a flow field affects ultrasonic flowmeter measurements by creating differences in the propagation times of individual sound pulses. Thus, turbulence and large-scale flow structures can result in variations in volumetric flow rate determination made by an ultrasonic flowmeter system.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Mechanical Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





ray trace method, turbulence, ultrasonic flowmeter, Sound-waves, Ultrasonic equipment, Laser beams, Turbulence