Innovators at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center have developed a
unique prototype for measuring the liquid level in a tank, employing a novel process.
The technology can operate in a wide range of environments, including high and low
temperatures and pressures, and is simpler and less expensive than other optical
sensing techniques. The instrument also provides far greater accuracy and faster
results in cryogenic conditions than typical cryogenic liquid metering methods. It
is ideal for cryogenic and non-cryogenic ground tank metering applications, and
zero-gravity systems that include stratification or set tling techniques.
- Versatile: Operates at high and low temperatures and pressures, functions in corrosive environments, and provides highly accurate metering for both cryogenic and non-cryogenic liquids
- Precise: Allows accurate liquid level measurements to 0.1% of the optical fiber length
- Safe: Avoids an explosion hazard—requires no electrical signals in the tank Cryogenic and Non-Cryogenic Optical Liquid Level Instrument for Stratified Conditions
- Fast: Offers a very rapid response time (up to gigahertz data rates), enabling measurement of rapidly changing fluid levels or sloshing liquids
- Flexible: Accommodates snaking through access ports or shaping to fit tank contours
- Economical: Incorporates directly into a plastic tank, reducing cost and eliminating the need for holes in the tank in some applications
- Rocket propulsion testing
- Engine fuel tanks
- Cryogenic tanks
- Liquid hydrogen fuel tanks
- Petroleum, gasoline, and liquid natural gas tanks
Foods and Pharmaceuticals
- High temperature, contamination-free storage and transportation
- Jet engine fuel tanks
What it is
NASA’s technology provides highly accurate and versatile liquid level metering in a wide range of operating environments.
NASA’s device for measuring liquid levels in tanks was initially developed for rocket engine testing. Scientists needed to determine the amount of cryogenic liquid that was being used in the testing quickly and accurately— data often very difficult to obtain because such systems usually involve constant mixing between gaseous and liquid states, which can lead to turbulent flow, cavitation, and sloshing.
Why it is better
Other sensors that measure liquid levels in tanks require complicated tank modifications and detection instruments, increasing cost and complexity. Other cryogenic metering systems register the thermal change between liquid and gas fluid phases, limiting accuracy in cryogenic conditions. In contrast to these systems, NASA’s device allows operation at high temperatures and pressures in corrosive environments and can precisely measure liquid levels to 0.1% of the sensor length with gigahertz data acquisition rates.
This technology is part of NASA’s technology transfer program. The program seeks to stimulate development of commercial uses of NASA-developed technologies. NASA is flexible in its agreements, and opportunities exist for licensing and joint development. MSFC is interested in a partnership to commercialize the technology.
Marshall has applied for patent protection for this technology.
If you would like more information about this technology or about NASA’s technology transfer program, please contact:
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center
Manager, Technology Commercialization and Licensing
Phone: (256) 544-5226
Fax: (256) 544-4810