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Pressure Measurement Based on Thermocouples

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1 Author(s)
Thomsen, K. ; Paul Scherrer Inst., Villigen, Switzerland

Measuring gas pressures reliably in a harsh radiation environment was confirmed to be tricky during operation of the liquid spallation target of MEGAPIE at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI). Severe drift of calibration and the loss of a sensor were experienced. At the same time, the only instrumentation that worked flawlessly in the system were thermocouples. Motivated by this experience, a novel pressure sensor for application in high radiation fields has been developed, which is based on temperature measurement. The new sensor takes advantage of the fact that the thermal conductivity over a mechanical joint exhibits a strong dependence on the contact pressure. In the novel sensor heating is applied at one point and temperatures are measured at different specific locations of the pressure gage; in particular, the temperatures on the two sides of a mechanical contact are monitored. From the observed temperature distribution the gas pressure can be derived. By choosing specific mechanical details in the lay-out, it is possible to tailor the useful measurement range. In addition to yielding pressure values, the new sensor concept admits for obtaining a measure for the accuracy of the result. This is done by continuous self monitoring of the device. The health status and based thereupon the plausibility of the indicated pressure value can be deducted by comparing sensed temperatures to expectation values for any given heating power. Malfunctioning of the pressure gage is reliably detected from the diverse readings of only one device; this can be seen as providing internal redundancy while at the same time immunity to common mode failure. After some analytical and finite element studies to verify the concept in principle, a first prototype of such a novel pressure sensor has been built at PSI. Initial measurement campaigns demonstrated the correct operation of the device as anticipated. Further potential for optimization, like designing a gage for high temperature appli- - cations or the miniaturization of such sensors, has been revealed.

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Nuclear Science, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:57 ,  Issue: 6 )