The sensor (7) for a mass flow meter (1) including a capillary
tube (6) for circulation of fluid in parallel with the principal
circuit of the fluid circulation. The sensor includes heating mechanisms
(20) of the capillary tube (6) and mechanisms for measuring the
temperature (22 23), upstream and downstream from this heating
mechanism (20), and separate from the heating mechanism. The mechanisms
for measuring the temperature (22 23) are two resistors manufactured
by deposition in an external manner on the sensor tube (6), one
of them (22) upstream from the heating mechanism (20), the other
(23) downstream from the heating mechanism. The manufacturing process
includes stages of deposition by an electron gun, firstly of a layer
of zirconia (21) of several microns, on the tube (6) made of stainless
steel, then of the sensitive components (27) and the contacts (31
32) of the measurement resistors (22 23), made of platinum, and
defined by masks of nickel.
1. A sensor apparatus comprising:
a mass flow meter having a main circuit suitable for fluid circulation
a capillary tube arranged in parallel to said main circuit, said
capillary tube having an insulating layer deposited thereon;
a heating means affixed to said capillary tube for heating a fluid
a first temperature measurement resistor affixed by a first deposit
axial to said capillary tube onto an exterior surface of said capillary
tube upstream from and separate from said heating means; and
a second temperature measurement resistor affixed by a second deposit
axial to said capillary tube onto said exterior surface of said
capillary tube downstream of and separate from said heating means,
each of said first and second deposits having a rectangular shape
with a length dimension and a width dimension, said length dimension
positioned so as to be parallel to a direction of the fluid flow
passing through said capillary tube, each of said first and second
deposits not being of a coil form.
2. The sensor apparatus of claim 1 wherein said first and second
temperature measurement resistors are affixed symmetrically at a
predetermined distance from said heating means, said resistors being
positioned on said capillary tube corresponding to zones having
a maximum temperature difference of the fluid passing through said
3. The sensor apparatus of claim 1 wherein said capillary tube
is of a type 316L stainless steel material.
4. The sensor apparatus of claim 1 wherein said insulating layer
is formed of a zirconia material.
5. The sensor apparatus of claim 1 wherein each of said first
and second temperature measurement resistors have connection contacts
at respective ends thereof, each of said first and second temperature
measurement resistors has a sensitive component extending between
said connection contacts, each of said connection contacts has a
resistance which is lower than a resistance of said sensitive component,
said connection contacts are made of platinum and have a width larger
than a width of said sensitive component.
6. The sensor apparatus of claim 1 wherein said heating means
comprises a coil of wire formed of an alloy of nickel and chromium
in a proportion of 75% and 20% respectively.
7. The sensor apparatus of claim 1 wherein said capillary tube
has a circular cross section with an outer diameter of between 0.4
mm and 2.0 mm.
The invention presented here is in the domain of devices for the
measurement of the flow rate of fluids in a channel.
The mass flow sensor is designed to be incorporated into a mass
flow meter placed in a system for the management and control of
the circulation of high purity gas, for example.
These mass flow meters usually consist of a capillary tube for
the circulation of fluid, on which the representative measurements
of the flow are carried out, and which is arranged in parallel with
the main circuit of fluid circulation.
Numerous types of mass flow meters are already known to the professional.
The principle of the flow sensors at the Wheatstone bridge and the
measurement of the temperature difference has been known since 1947.
They are most often based on a local heating of the passing fluid
in the capillary tube, and a measurement of the variation in the
resistance of the resistive components as a function of the temperature.
The aforementioned measurement is representative of the flow of
the gas in the tube, and thus of the flow rate. The two measurement
resistors, of equal value, possess a large resistance and a large
coefficient of variation with the temperature, are most often simply
wound around the insulated capillary tube. These resistors, supplied
with a constant current, heat up the tube but thus function also
as the mechanisms for measuring the temperature. One of the disadvantages
of this type of sensor is the sizable thermal mass of the wound
resistors, which generates an equally long response time.
Among other known devices, the European patent application 0 131
318 B1 (Bronkhorst 1984) could be cited, which poses the problem
of deriving the zero point of measurement when the fluid itself
has a variable temperature, and suggests a mounting principle for
the flow sensor based on four resistors sensitive to temperature
deposited in a manner, not detailed, on a layer, the nature of which
is not specified. The resistors are mounted in the Wheatstone bridge
in a customary manner.
In another application, (EP 0 395 126 B1), Bronkhorst proposes
a geometry of the tube having a very elongated U, and equipped with
a series of thermocouples placed symmetrically and a central heating
resistor in two parts, possibly with Peltier cooling components,
for handling problems of errors in measurement associated with a
circulation of air to the outside of the sensor or from internal
convection to the capillary tube.
The U.S. Pat. No. 5 373 737 (Goldstar 1993) presents a mass flow
sensor which is insensitive to variations in the external temperature,
using two resistors wound to the outside of the fluid circulation
tube, mounted in a Wheatstone bridge, and a cooling element placed
in a thermally insulated enclosed space.
Similarly, U.S. Pat. No. 5410912 reveals a mass flow sensor in
which two resistors are used with a mounting in a bridge. The aforementioned
sensor is independent from the variations in the ambient temperature
due to the intermediate action of an enclosed space specific to
the tube at the point of measurement. One of these resistors is
used for heating and the other for measurement of the resistance
as a function of the temperature reached.
There are several other patent documents involving mass flow sensors.
The article "A calibration system for calorimetric mass flow
devices" (Widmer, Felhmann, Rehwald, J. Phys., E: Sci. Instr
Vol 15 1982 pp 213) presents the global manner of diverse technologies
existing for flow meters since 1900 and the changes. One article
for the presentation of the background of the recent technical evolution
of mass flow meters is provided by "Recent Advances in Mass
Flow Controls", pp 86 Solid State Technology, 9/94.
As it is observed, several designs for thermal fluid flow sensors
have been proposed to solve problems of measurement precision if
the sensor is outside the capillary tube, of corrosion if the sensor
is placed inside the tube, of deriving the reference point as a
function of the intrinsic temperature of the fluid, of the interference
phenomenon of transfer of heat to the inside or outside of the tube,
of imprecision in manufacturing or of non-reproducibility in manufacturing.
Sensors of a low-flow (10 to 20 cc/minute) have many principle
faults: response time, less extensive range of measurement and precision.
The response time of the existing devices is on the order of tens
of seconds at the level of the sensor (time measurement of convergence
of oscillations to 67% of their equilibrium value), this time being
improved (typically reduced by a factor of three) by the use of
the PID electronic card (Proportional Integrator Derivation) which
anticipates measurement oscillations of the sensor and predicts
the value of convergence. A digital card giving values specified
from modeling parameters of oscillations of the sensors allows further
improvement of the time, in an artificial manner.
The problem of response time of the sensor itself, which is present
for all mass flow sensors, is particularly appreciable for the flow
meter having a low flow, on the order of 10 to 50 cc/minute, for
which the convergence time of the sensor can reach several minutes.
These sensors are thus very difficult to calibrate precisely. The
problem of response time, considered to be a critical point, has
been approached in particular in the patent application FR 2 530
014 with a solution made by a special arrangement made of three
coils wound around the tube end to end, with a coil upstream from
the heating, an intermediate coil for measurement and supplemental
heating, and a downstream coil for cooling between the temperatures
created by the two first coils.
It is noted that in other systems, the current can be varied in
a manner in order to maintain an always constant temperature, and
from that the flow can be deduced. This thus involves the problem
of control and thus a more complex electronic card (see EP 0 522
496 A1 Nippodenso, 1992).
The invention presented here proposes, to remedy some of the disadvantages
cited, a new sensor having a very short response time.
According to a second goal of the invention, the sensor created
in this manner allows low measurements.
According to a third goal of the invention, the process for manufacturing
the sensor allows a manufacturing of sensors having precisely known
characteristics which are reproducible and stable over time.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The present invention is a sensor for a mass flow meter comprising
a capillary tube for the circulation of fluid in parallel with the
main circuit of fluid circulation and designed to be integrated
into a circuit for the circulation of gaseous fluids. The present
for heating the capillary tube and mechanisms for measuring the
temperature upstream and downstream from the heating mechanism and
separate from the heating mechanism. The mechanisms for measurement
of the temperature have the form of two resistors made by the deposition
on the outside of the sensor tube, one of them upstream from the
heating mechanism, the other downstream from this mechanism.
The separation of functions of heating and measurement makes it
possible to choose materials better suited for each of the functions
of heating and measurement, and thus for considerably improving
the sensor performance.
The selection of resistors deposited on the tube leads to components
not varying characteristics with time, contrary to the customary
systems (wound resistors), hence, an increased reliability associated
with the resistors having reproducible and stable characteristics
According to particular devices, possibly combined, the sensor
is characterized in that:
the two measurement resistors are placed symmetrically at a predetermined
distance from the heating mechanism, corresponding to the zones
presenting a maximum difference in temperature,
the capillary tube is made of stainless steel type 316L,
the capillary tube comprises an electrically insulating layer made
of zirconia deposited at a thickness of several microns,
the measurement resistors are made of platinum,
the resistors have connection contacts at their ends having their
own resistance which is many orders of magnitude lower than that
of the resistors,
the heating mechanism is made in the form of a coil of wire made
of an alloy of nickel and chromium in the proportions of 75% -20%.
These different arrangements correspond to a preferred embodiment
of the sensor. The selection of resistors made of platinum makes
it possible to obtain resistances which are extremely low and a
value of resistance known with precision. Similarly, the selection
of the alloy of the heating resistor makes it possible to obtain
a very stable resistance over time.
The use of contacts at the ends of the resistors having their own
resistance which is many orders of magnitude lower than that of
the measurement resistors makes it possible, during the calculation
of the variations in the resistance associated with the passage
of fluid into the sensor, to consider the resistance of the contacts
to be negligible.
The use of wire made of nickel chromium alloy for the heating mechanism
makes it possible to have a resistance which is very slightly variable
as a function of temperature, and thus a constant and known heating
The selection of an electrically insulating layer made by deposition
at a thickness of several microns (and thus presenting a thermally
negligible resistance in this layer by thin-film manufacturing),
associated with the manufacturing of sensitive resistors also by
deposition in thin-film manufacturing, leads to a response time
of the sensor which is clearly shorter than the devices using a
thick insulator (for example, an aluminum sleeve of existing devices)
and wound resistors having a sizable thermal mass.
The invention is also intended for the process for manufacturing
the sensor tube designed to be integrated into a mass flow meter,
comprising the following steps:
calculation of the distance for positioning the resistors as a
function of the equations characterizing the temperatures of the
tube and the gaseous flow,
deposition of the insulating layer by electron gun, by adding oxygen
into the enclosed space,
then deposition of resistors made of platinum, by electron gun,
on the capillaries insulated by the zirconia layer, through the
nickel masks, at a residual pressure lower than 10.sup.-6 torr,
at a thickness of several thousand angstroms.
then the deposition of the platinum contacts, by electron gun,
on the capillaries insulated by the zirconia layer, through the
nickel masks, at a residual pressure lower than 10.sup.-6 torr,
at a thickness of several microns.
The determination of the position of the points corresponding to
a maximum temperature difference between the measurement resistors
is done using the equations characterizing the temperatures of the
tube, on the one hand, and of the flow, on the other hand, which
the customary theoretical models do not allow with precision by
a single equation. These calculations have been confirmed by numerical
calculations made with simulation software.
The selection of deposition of insulating material and measurement
components by electron gun makes it possible to obtain a contact
of the resistors which is extremely close to the insulated tube,
thus a response time of the sensor which is very short.
The previously known sensors, on the contrary, use a thick, adhered
and non-deposited deposition, with questionable reliability of contact
and thus questionable reproducibility of the measurement made by
the sensors. It is also possible here to make a deposition layer
reduced to 2.5 microns instead of tens of microns as currently known.
Finally, a reproducible procedure is created, with thus the capacity
to produce exactly identical characteristics in a large series of
The selection of this technology makes it possible to also manufacture
resistors on the curved surface of the sensors (cylindrical tube).
According to a preferred embodiment mode, the manufacturing process
of the sensor tube is includes, at the end of processing, a step
for annealing the tubes for one hour at 300.degree. C.
The description which follows, made in view of the attached drawings
in the goal of explaining and not at all limiting, makes it possible
to better understand the advantages, goals and characteristics of
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 shows the functional design of a prior art flow meter.
FIGS. 2A and 2B shows the functional principle of the prior art
mass flow sensor.
FIGS. 3(A) and 3(B) shows the sensor for the present invention
seen from above and from the side, respectively.
FIG. 4 shows the temperature differences created by a gas flow
at full scale along the sensor.
FIG. 5 shows the geometry of a sensitive resistive component of
FIG. 6 shows the response time compared to a traditional sensor
and of a sensor according to the invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PRESENT INVENTION
As is depicted according to the prior art arrangement in FIG. 1
a flow meter 1 is inserted into a gas circulation line, and consists
of a gas input 2 and a gas output 3 (the direction of the circulation
of the gas is symbolized by the arrows). The circulation of the
gas has a laminar restriction 4 in the flow meter in the section
of the tube, having a branch passage (bypass) 5 in parallel which
circulates a part of the gas flow into a capillary tube in the sensor
7. The flow meter 1 also consists of a valve 8 for controlling the
gaseous flow, which regulates the flow, and an electronic circuit
9 which is of the comparator type (P.I.D., i.e., a Proportional
Integrator Differentiating Circuit) between an externally transmitted
control variable and the measurement made by the sensor. A control
loop 10 of the type known in the art performs the automatic functional
control of the flow meter 1.
In so far as its operating principle is concerned, the sensor 7
receives and heats up a small part of the laminar flow (at full
scale 10 cm.sup.3 /min), which is proportional to the total flow.
The mass flow rate is estimated based on the thermal transfer which
it generates: the profile of the temperature without circulation
of the gas along the tube 6 of the sensor 7 heated over one part
of its length, is changed into an asymmetrical profile 12 when the
gas circulates in the tube 6 and this temperature difference .DELTA.T
between the upstream 13 and the downstream 14 of the tube is a measurement
of the mass flow (as shown in FIGS. 2A and 2B).
The flow sensor, in the prior art device, consists, as viewed in
FIG. 2A, of two coils 15 16 of resistive wire, which ensure two
simultaneous functions: heating and temperature measurement.
This temperature measurement is obtained by measuring the variation
of the two resistances, mounted in a traditional manner in a Wheatstone
bridge. The application of a constant current between the resistor
connecting terminals which are selected at the equivalent value
R (at the same temperature) induces heating of the capillary tube
at the two adjacent locations.
In the absence of the circulation of gas in the capillary, the
temperature distribution is represented by the curve 11 in FIG.
2B (the curve shows the value of the temperature in the ordinate
(y) axis, and the distance along the tube in the abscissas (x) axis)
and is, of course, symmetrical with respect to the center 17 of
the two resistances. On the contrary, in the case of the circulation
of gas in the tube (curve 12), the temperature distribution is asymmetrical,
and it is seen that between the two points 18 19 equidistant from
the center 17 of the resistances, a temperature difference .DELTA.T,
results in the different measurements of the resistance for the
two resistive components, R-.delta.R and R+.delta.R.
The structure of the sensor according to the invention is a sensor
of the type called "six-wire", having heating and measurement
functions which are separated as is seen in FIG. 3. The heating
is ensured by a resistive wire 20 made of a nickel-chromium alloy,
wound around the tube 6. The tube 6 has an insulating layer 21 and
two temperature measuring mechanisms 22 and 23 which are resistors
varying with the temperature, obtained by thin film technology.
The wound heating wire 20 must have a resistance slightly varying
with the temperature as opposed to the measurement resistances 22
and 23. In total there are 6 connection wires of the sensor (2 per
measurement resistance and 2 for the resistive wire), thus the name.
The calculation of the position of the measurement resistances
22 23 in comparison with the position of the resistive wire 20
makes necessary a presentation here of the analytical calculation
model used, which distinguishes between the temperature of the gas
circulating in the tube 6 and the temperature of the tube 6 itself.
This model distinguishes the different thermal flows, per the length
of the tube, which occur in the sensor: the axial flow of thermal
conduction in the tube 6 the radial flow exchanged between the
gas and the tube, the radial flow exchanged between the tube and
its environment, the power injected per unit of length P (in W/m).
In these calculations, it is considered that this power is injected
in the thickness of the tube. The environment of the tube has a
thermal resistance denoted R.sub.T per unit length (K m.sup.-1 W.sup.-1).
The tube has a section S (m.sup.2) and a thermal conductivity k
(W m.sup.-1 K.sup.-1)
The temperature of the gas, .theta.g (K), and the temperature of
the tube .theta..sub.p (K), are both the increases in temperature
compared to the ambient temperature. They only depend on their position
x along the tube 6 the origin of which is the center 17 of the
For a small tube element, the sum of the different thermal flows
must be zero at a constant rate of flow. This leads to the following
where Nu is the Nusselt constant. For a laminar flow rate in a
tube heated at constant power, its mean value is 4.36. .lambda.(W
m.sup.-1 K.sup.-1), the thermal conductivity of the gas, and C.sub.p
(J kg.sup.-1 K.sup.-1), the thermal capacity of the gas, are selected
at a mean temperature. F.sub.m is the mass flow rate of the gas
(kg s.sup.-1) in the sensor.
On the other hand, the sum of the flow transported by the gas and
the flow exchanged between the gas and the tube must also be zero:
The tube is divided into three zones. For a tube of the length
2.times.L, heated by a coil having the length 2.times.x.sub.r, these
three zones are: -L<x<x.sub.r, the upstream zone (P=0), -x.sub.r
<x<x.sub.r the heating zone (P is equal to the Joule effect
per unit length and temperature), x.sub.r <x<L the downstream
zone (P=0). The second equation allows us to replace the temperature
of the gas by the temperature of the tube in the first equation.
One obtains a differential equation of the third order for the
temperature of the gas: ##EQU3##
The three roots of the equation characteristic of the temperature
of the gas .omega.1 .omega.2 and .omega.3 can be noted. The general
solution of the equation (3) is written:
where A, B and C are constants of integration.
Equation 2 gives the temperature of the tube where
In each zone, the constants A, B, C are different and determined
by the boundary conditions.
At infinity, very far from the heating resistor, the temperature
of the gas is the ambient temperature. This hypothesis leads to
the elimination of one or two exponentials in equation 4.
The temperature of the gas, its first and second derivatives are
continuous at x=x.sub.r and x=-x.sub.r (see equation 2).
FIG. 4 shows the temperature differences created by the a flow
rate of gas at full scale along the sensor 7. There is excellent
correspondence between the values measured at the thermocouple (curve
24) and the values calculated (curve 25). FIG. 5 shows this temperature
difference is due to a flow rate of nitrogen at full scale, calculated
and measured at the thermocouple. The difference between the temperatures,
symmetrical between the upstream and downstream of the heating coil,
either calculated or measured, is linear compared to the flow rate
of the gas.
All these results show the reliability of the model and make it
possible to extend it to the sensor tube 6 with its insulating layer
21 on which the measurements of the temperature are difficult to
The different traditional thermal analytical models of the sensor
consider the temperature of the gas to be equal to the temperature
of the tube.
In fact, the temperature of the gas can be very different from
the temperature of the tube if the gas has a low thermal diffusion
coefficient, as does nitrogen, for example. This thermal diffusion
coefficient, denoted a, appears in the second equation: ##EQU6##
where J.sub.v is the volumetric flow rate (m.sup.3 /s).
In addition, it is necessary to note that a numerical simulation
will show a radial temperature gradient in the gas which has a low
thermal diffusion coefficient.
Considering the properties of the gas which are constant along
the tube and selecting them at a mean temperature does not have
to generate significant error. In effect, the calorific capacity
of the majority of the gas does not depend on the temperature.
The variation of the density of the gas as a function of the temperature
has, however, an effect if the sensor is parallel to the force of
From the calculations can be obtained:
the length of the coil of resistive wire 20 in order to have a
the placement and the length of the temperature resistors 22 and
23. They must be near to the coil 20 where the temperature of the
tube 6 is changed the most by the gas.
The resistors 22 and 23 forming these sensors must be as short
as possible in order to consider the measurement of the temperature
to be local but long enough so that their resistance R is increased
Once the dimensions determined comply with what has just been explained,
the manufacture of the sensor 7 is done in the following manner.
In the embodiment presented as non-limiting (FIG. 3), the capillary
tube 6 has an outside diameter of 0.9 member for approximately 60
member of length, and it is made of stainless steel of the type
316L or the equivalent. The heating resistive wire 20 used is made
of an alloy of nickel (75%) and chromium (20%) which has the particularity
of having an increased resistance 1.33 Ohm.mm.sup.2 m.sup.-1 and
a low coefficient of variation of resistance as a function of the
temperature (10 ppm/.degree. C.). This absolutely must be done to
ensure the heating function. Its diameter is 28 microns and it is
supplied by a current of 12.5 mA.
The insulating layer 20 is made of zirconia (ZrO.sub.2), selected
for its good stability and its good dielectric properties, deposited
by electron gun on the capillary tube 21 of the sensor, at a thickness
of 2.5 microns. It covers 20 mm over the 60 mm length of the tube
On this layer, two resistors of platinum 22 and 23 are deposited
(by deposition of the platinum through the nickel masks) which make
up the resistances for measurement of the temperature of the tube.
The platinum, a stable material, non-oxidizable, obtained having
a very large purity, has a large temperature coefficient (CTR: 3.9
10-- 3.degree. C.-1). This is why it is often used for the manufacture
of calibrating resistors. These two resistors 22 and 23 placed
symmetrically compared to the center 17 of the coil of resistor
wire 20 are mounted in a Wheatstone bridge. The length of the coil
of heating resistive wire is approximately 6 mm, and the distance
between the two measurement resistances 22 and 23 is thus approximately
7 mm. They are arranged symmetrically here and there before and
after the center 17 of the coil.
The difference between the temperatures, i.e. between the two measurement
resistors 22 and 23 is thus proportional to the rate of flow and
its measurement thus corresponds to a measurement of the flow rate
circulating in the capillary 6.
The geometry of each measurement resistor 22 and 23 made of platinum
is detailed in FIG. 5. In this representation, the length 26 of
the sensitive component 27 of each measurement resistor is approximately
4.5 mm, and the width 28 is 100 microns. The sensitive component
27 has its solid ends 29 and 30 of the two contacts 31 and 32 connecting
to the measurement wires (not shown), in the form of rectangular
sectional sheets also made of platinum, 400 microns wide by 50 microns
long. The contacts 31 and 32 have a width which is larger than the
sensitive components 27 so that their resistance may be considered
to be negligible during measurement.
As concerns the manufacturing itself, the insulating layer (ZrO.sub.2)
21 the sensitive components 27 of the resistors 22 and 23 made
of platinum, the contacts 31 and 32 made of platinum, are made in
this order by thin film deposition using an electron gun.
The substrate, the sensor tube 6 made of stainless steel 316L,
is held on a heating support. In order to obtain two roughly equivalent
resistors, it is preferable that the substrate support be in rotation
The deposition of the zirconia is done by the addition of oxygen
into the enclosed space in order to ensure the deposit of an oxidized
insulating layer 21. The parameters for the deposit by electron
gun, of the zirconia on the capillary tubes 6 are thus the following:
thickness deposited: 2 to 3 microns
residual pressure: lower than 10.sup.-6 Torr
O2 pressure: 8 10.sup.-5 Torr
substrate temperature: 300.degree. C.
speed of deposition: 20 to 40 angstroms per second.
As concerns the deposition of the sensitive components 27 and the
contacts 31 and 32 the sensitive components made of platinum are
deposited, also by electron gun, on the capillaries 6 insulated
by the layer of zirconia 21 through the nickel masks. Two deposits
and two masks are necessary, due to the geometry desired for the
measurement resistances 22 and 23: one for the sensitive components
27 made of platinum, and the other for the contacts 31 and 32. They
are obtained from the same target of platinum. The two deposits
are made at a residual pressure lower than 10.sup.-6 torr. The thickness
of the measurement resistances 22 and 23 can vary according to the
requirements from 2000 to 7000 angstroms. This is to be determined
according to the desired value of the resistance, R.
The parameters for the deposit of the resistors are the following:
distance of target-capillaries: 10 cm
thickness of the resistances: 2000 to 7000 angstroms
substrate temperature: 200.degree. C.
speed of deposition: 13 to 20 angstroms per second.
The parameters for the deposit of the contacts are the following:
distance of target-capillaries: 8 cm
thickness of the resistances: 1 to 2 microns
substrate temperature: 200.degree. C.
speed of deposition: 20 to 30 angstroms per second.
Once the deposits are done, the capillaries 6 are annealed for
one hour at 300.degree. C. in order to fix the coefficient of variation
of the resistances 22 and 23 with the temperature (according to
a traditionally-used effect), the layer then reforms in a stable
manner. This thus makes it possible to obtain a sensor 7 likely
to function at high temperature. It is understood that in this manner
a resistance is thus made which is more reliable than a coiled resistance
whose coefficient varies with time in the course of the aging of
the protective varnish and of the wire.
The functional mode of the device is identical to the traditional
functioning, having a measurement in the Wheatstone bridge of the
difference between the resistances upstream 22 and downstream 23
in the direction of the circulation of the fluid. The coil of the
heating resistive wire 20 is separately supplied power, in a controlled
manner, by the electronic card 9.
By the technology of the deposition used, a close contact is obtained
here between the resistances 22 and 23 and the tube 6 contact which
ensures a larger rapidity of the sensor 7 having as the most favorable
consequence a considerably reduced response time.
The improvement of the response time of the sensor using the invention
is measured, for example, on a traditional flow meter, having a
reduction of time of convergence to 67% of the sensor from 6 seconds
to 3.5 seconds in equivalent conditions, which makes up a very appreciable
improvement, on the order of 40%. FIG. 6 shows the gain in time
of the response made by this new type of sensor (curve 33) compared
with a traditional sensor (curve 34).
Another advantage of this sensor is in presenting reliable measurement
resistors 22 and 23 (the reliability being connected in particular
to the use of platinum), in the sense that they are reproducible
and stable over time, without the aging phenomenon, which makes
a great advantage compared to the previous technology.
It is understood that it is possible in using the invention presented
here to make at one time a large series of parts having exactly
identical characteristics (for example, several groups of ten),
which makes possible, at the same time, savings in manufacturing
and an excellent reproducibility of the measurement results obtained.
It is noted that the two measurement resistances 22 and 23 deposited
in the aforementioned zones on the tube 6 are sufficient in the
invention, in the measurement where the temperature of the tube
is uniform since the heating is done uniformly around the tube,
there is thus no longer the need for resistances placed at several
places on the tube, or covering a large surface.
Another advantage of the invention presented here lies in the possible
functioning of the device at a high temperature, associated with
the annealing done at 300.degree. C. after processing, which gives
the sensor a large degree of gradient stability below the annealing
In a variation of the deposition process, cathodic pulverization
is used and also provides easily reproducible results.
In another variation relative to the material of the insulating
layer, yttric zirconia can be used to replace the pure zirconia.
It is apparent in addition that if the embodiment example shows
capillary tubes of 0.9 mm external diameter (0.7 mm inside), other
diameters are possible according to the range of flow rates imagined
for the flow meter, with the same principle of processing.
The manufacturing process, as has been explained, can be used in
order to make sensors of the mass flow meter in which the heating
and measuring functions are combined. It is thus necessary to carry
out a deposit around all of the tube, in such a way as to obtain
a uniform heating function of the tube.
Finally, up until now, only deposition for measurement resistors
has been mentioned. It is of course possible to replace the heating
resistance 20 made as the coil in the embodiment mode described
as an example, by a deposited heating resistor.
The range of the invention presented here is not limited to the
embodiment methods presented but, on the contrary, extends to improvements
and modifications which are conceivable to the professional.