Measurement of Fluid Pressure: Principles and Devices and Uncertainty

Principles of Fluid Pressure Measurement

Fluid pressure measurement relies on fundamental principles of fluid mechanics and the behavior of fluids under the influence of force. Here are the key principles underlying fluid pressure measurement:

Pascal’s Law:

  • Named after the French mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal
  • Pascal’s law states that in a confined fluid at rest, any change in pressure applied at any point in the fluid is transmitted undiminished throughout the fluid in all directions.
  • This principle forms the basis for hydraulic systems and is crucial for understanding how fluid pressure is distributed.

Hydrostatic Pressure:

    • Hydrostatic pressure is the pressure exerted by a fluid due to the force of gravity.
    • It is directly proportional to the depth of the fluid and is described by the equation

P = ρgh,

    • where P is the pressure, ρ is the fluid density, g is the acceleration due to gravity, and h is the depth of the fluid. This principle is applied in devices like manometers for pressure measurement.
Hydro static Pressure Measurement
Hydrostatic Pressure Measurement

Bernoulli’s Principle:

  • Bernoulli’s principle relates the pressure in a fluid to its velocity. It states that as the speed of a fluid increases, its pressure decreases, and vice versa.
  • This principle is particularly important in understanding fluid flow dynamics and is applied in devices like Pitot tubes used to measure fluid velocity.
Bernoulis Principle -Energy conservation

Bourdon Effect:

  • The Bourdon effect is utilized in Bourdon tube pressure gauges.
  • A Bourdon tube is a curved tube that tends to straighten when pressurized.
  • The resulting mechanical movement is then translated into a pointer movement, providing a visual indication of pressure.

Archimedes’ Principle:

  • Archimedes’ principle states that an object submerged in a fluid experiences an upward buoyant force equal to the weight of the fluid it displaces.
  • While this principle is often associated with buoyancy, it is also relevant in understanding the forces exerted by fluids on immersed objects.

Pressure-Volume Relationship:

  • The pressure-volume relationship is crucial in understanding the behavior of gases.
  • Boyle’s law, for example, states that the pressure of a gas is inversely proportional to its volume at constant temperature.
  • This principle is applied in various gas pressure measurement devices.

Fluid Compressibility:

  • Compressibility refers to the change in volume of a fluid in response to a change in pressure.
  • Incompressible fluids have negligible volume change under pressure, while compressible fluids, like gases, experience significant volume changes.
  • Understanding fluid compressibility is important for accurate pressure measurements, especially in dynamic systems.
  • Understanding these principles is fundamental for designing and using devices for fluid pressure measurement.
  • Whether using simple manometers or advanced electronic pressure transducers, the application of these principles ensures accurate and reliable measurements in various industrial, scientific, and everyday contexts.
Type of pressure measurement methods
Type of pressure measurement methods

Devices For Fluid Pressure Measurement 


  • U-Tube Manometer:
    • Consists of a U-shaped tube filled with a liquid (commonly mercury or water).
    • The pressure difference between two points is determined by the difference in the liquid levels in the two legs of the U-tube.
  • Inclined Manometer:
    • Similar to a U-tube manometer but with one leg inclined.
    • This design allows for the measurement of small pressure differences with higher precision.
Type manometer for pressure measurement
Type manometer for pressure measurement

Pressure Gauges:

    • Bourdon Tube Gauge: Utilizes a curved tube that straightens with increasing pressure. The movement is transferred to a pointer on a dial, providing a visual indication of pressure.
    • Diaphragm Gauge: This consists of a flexible diaphragm that deforms under pressure changes, and the deformation is translated into a mechanical or electrical signal.
Checklist for mass flow meter
Checklist for mass flow meter and measurement of fluid

Pressure Transducers:

    • Strain Gauge Pressure Transducer: E
      • Employs strain gauges attached to a diaphragm.
      • As pressure changes, the diaphragm deforms, causing the strain gauges to change resistance.
      • This change is converted into an electrical signal.
    • Piezoelectric Pressure Transducer:
      • Utilizes the piezoelectric effect, where certain materials generate an electric charge in response to mechanical stress.
      • Changes in pressure cause deformation and generate an electric signal.
  • Differential Pressure Sensors:
    • Venturi Tubes and Orifice Plates: These create a pressure drop in a fluid flow, and the difference in pressure before and after the constriction is measured to determine the flow rate.
    • Pitot Tubes: Measures the dynamic pressure of a fluid stream to determine its velocity.
Pressure drop calulaiton
Pressure Strain Gauges for Pressure Measurement

Electronic Pressure Sensors:

    • Capacities Pressure Sensor: Measures the change in capacitance between two plates as a diaphragm deforms under pressure.
    • Resonant Wire Pressure Sensor: Utilizes the change in the resonant frequency of a vibrating wire or filament due to pressure-induced tension.

Absolute and Vacuum Pressure Sensors:

    • Barometers: Measure atmospheric pressure as an indicator of altitude or weather changes.
    • Vacuum Gauges: Specifically designed to measure pressures below atmospheric pressure.
Pressure Datum absolute and Gauge Pressure
Pressure Datum absolute and Gauge Pressure

Smart Transmitters:

    • Pressure Transmitters: Combine a sensor with signal conditioning electronics to provide a standardized output signal, often 4-20 mA or digital, suitable for integration with control systems.
  • Digital Manometers:
    • Digital Pressure Gauges: Provide digital readouts of pressure, often with additional features such as data logging and communication capabilities.


Manometers for Pressure Measurement

  • Manometers are devices used to measure fluid pressure.
  • They are based on the principle that the pressure of a fluid is directly proportional to the height of the fluid column.
  • When using manometers, it’s important to consider the properties of the fluid being measured, the range of pressures expected, and the required accuracy.
  • Additionally, care must be taken to ensure proper calibration and to account for factors like temperature variations that can affect the density of the fluid.
  • There are different types of manometers, each with its own design and application. Here are some common types of manometers used for pressure measurement:
Manometer for pressure measurement
Manometer for pressure measurement

U-Tube Manometer:

  • The U-tube manometer consists of a U-shaped tube filled with a liquid (usually mercury or a colored fluid). One end of the tube is connected to the pressure source, and the other end is open to the atmosphere.
  • The pressure difference causes the liquid level in one leg of the U-tube to rise and the other leg to fall. The difference in height between the two columns is a measure of the pressure.

Inverted U-Tube Manometer:

  • Similar to the U-tube manometer, but the U-shaped tube is inverted. One end is connected to the pressure source, and the other end is open to the atmosphere.
  • This type is useful when the pressure being measured is below atmospheric pressure.

Well-Type Manometer:

  • In a well-type manometer, a U-shaped tube is connected to a reservoir or well. The pressure being measured is applied to the liquid in the well, causing the liquid level in the U-tube to change.
  • This type is useful for measuring low pressures, and the well provides a stable reference point.

Micro Manometer:

  • Micromanometer are designed for measuring very small pressure differences.
  • They often use a U-tube with a very small diameter and may be equipped with a magnifying lens to enhance readability.

Differential Manometer:

    • Differential manometers measure the difference in pressure between two points. They can be U-tube or other types, and they are particularly useful for measuring pressure drops across devices like filters or orifices.

Digital Manometer:

    • Modern manometers may use digital technology for pressure measurement. These devices typically have a pressure sensor and a digital display to provide a numerical readout of the pressure.

Multi-Fluid Manometer:

    • Multi-fluid manometers use multiple fluids with different densities to extend the measurement range. This is achieved by selecting fluids with appropriate density ratios to cover a broader range of pressures.
  • Inclined Manometer:
    • In an inclined manometer, the U-tube is inclined at an angle. This design is useful when space is limited, and the inclined configuration allows for a longer column in a confined space.


Uncertainty in Pressure Measurement

  • Uncertainty is an inherent aspect of any measurement, including pressure measurement.
  • Uncertainty in pressure measurement refers to the range within which the true value of the pressure is expected to lie.
  • Various factors contribute to the uncertainty in pressure measurements, and understanding and quantifying this uncertainty are essential for obtaining reliable and meaningful data. Here are some key factors influencing uncertainty in pressure measurement:
  1. Instrument Calibration:
    • The calibration of pressure measurement instruments introduces uncertainty. Calibration involves comparing the instrument’s readings to a standard reference.
    • The accuracy of the calibration standard and the calibration procedure contribute to the overall uncertainty.
  2. Instrument Resolution:
    • The precision or resolution of the pressure measurement instrument affects uncertainty.
    • Instruments with finer resolution may provide more precise readings but might also introduce uncertainties related to interpretation of the least significant digits.
  3. Environmental Conditions:
    • Changes in environmental conditions, such as temperature and humidity, can impact pressure measurements. Many pressure sensors are sensitive to temperature, and variations in ambient conditions can introduce uncertainties in the readings.
  4. Drift and Stability:
    • Over time, instruments may experience drift, where their readings deviate from the calibrated values.
    • This drift can be due to factors such as wear and tear, aging, or changes in internal components. Understanding the stability and potential drift of an instrument is crucial for assessing uncertainty.
  5. Installation and Mounting:
    • The way an instrument is installed and mounted can affect its performance. Mechanical stress, misalignment, or other installation-related factors may introduce uncertainties.
    • Proper installation procedures should be followed to minimize these effects.
  6. Pressure Medium Characteristics:
    • The characteristics of the fluid being measured, such as its composition and temperature, can influence the accuracy of pressure measurements.
    • Different fluids have different compressibility and thermal expansion properties that must be considered.
  7. Reference Standards:
    • The quality and traceability of the reference standards used in calibration impact uncertainty.
    • Well-maintained and regularly calibrated reference standards contribute to more reliable pressure measurements.
  8. Repeatability and Reproducibility:
    • Repeatability refers to the closeness of agreement between repeated measurements of the same quantity under the same conditions.
    • Reproducibility refers to the closeness of agreement between measurements made under different conditions. Understanding these characteristics helps quantify uncertainties.
  9. Measurement System Design:
    • The design of the entire measurement system, including the pressure transducer, signal conditioning, and data acquisition, plays a role in determining uncertainty.
    • Systematic errors or limitations in any part of the system can contribute to uncertainty.
  10. User Skill and Training:
    • The skill and training of the individuals performing the pressure measurements can influence uncertainty.
    • Proper training ensures that operators follow correct procedures and minimize potential sources of error.

Pressure Comparison Between CFD and Experiment

  • Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and experimental methods are two approaches used to analyze and understand fluid flow, including pressure distributions.
  • Here’s a brief comparison between CFD and experimental methods regarding pressure analysis:

Advantages of   CFD for Pressure Drop 

    • Cost-Effective: CFD simulations can be more cost-effective compared to experiments, especially in the initial stages of design and analysis.
    • Flexible: CFD allows for simulations in a wide range of conditions, providing insights into various scenarios without the need for physical prototypes.
    • Detailed Information: CFD provides detailed information on flow patterns, velocities, and pressure distributions at different points in the domain.

Limitation of CFD

      • Model Assumptions: CFD models rely on assumptions and simplifications, which may not always capture all real-world complexities accurately.
      • Verification and Validation Challenges: Ensuring that CFD results are accurate and reliable requires thorough verification and validation against experimental data.
      • Computational Resources: High-fidelity simulations may require significant computational resources and time.

Experimental Pressure Measurement


  • Real-World Validation: Experimental methods provide real-world data that directly reflect the physical system, offering a validation benchmark for numerical models.
  • No Model Assumptions: Experiments directly measure physical quantities without relying on assumptions, providing a more direct representation of the real system.
  • Capture Unforeseen Phenomena: Experiments can capture unexpected phenomena or interactions that might be challenging to predict using simulation alone.


  • Cost and Time: Experiments can be costly, especially when building physical prototypes or conducting tests in controlled environments. They can also be time-consuming.
  • Limited Range: Physical experiments may have limitations in terms of the range of conditions that can be tested compared to the flexibility of CFD simulations.
  • Instrumentation Challenges: The accuracy of experimental measurements depends on the precision of instrumentation, and certain measurements may be challenging to obtain.
Effect of geometry on pressure drop
Effect of Geometry on Pressure Drop

Comparison of Pressure Values

  • In practice, a combination of CFD and experimental methods is often used. CFD can guide the design process, and experimental data can be used for validation.
  • A well-validated CFD model can then be employed to explore scenarios beyond the scope of experimental testing.
  • The key is to understand the strengths and limitations of each approach and to use them synergistic ally to gain a comprehensive understanding of the fluid flow and pressure distribution
  1. Local vs. Global:

    • CFD is capable of providing detailed pressure distributions at any point in the simulated domain, allowing for a local analysis.
    • Experimental methods may provide more global pressure information but might lack the same level of detail at specific locations.
  2. Transient vs. Steady-State:

    • CFD can capture both transient and steady-state pressure variations over time.
    • Experiments might be limited in terms of capturing dynamic changes in pressure with the same level of detail.
  3. Boundary Conditions:

    • CFD requires accurate specification of boundary conditions, and discrepancies in boundary conditions can lead to differences in pressure predictions.
    • Experiments directly measure pressures at specific locations but are influenced by the physical setup.



  • Selecting the appropriate device involves considering factors like the required accuracy, pressure range, fluid type, environmental conditions, and the specific demands of the application.
  • Advances in technology continue to bring about improvements in pressure measurement devices, offering more accurate, reliable, and versatile solutions for various industries.
  • In practice, uncertainty is often expressed as a standard deviation or as an uncertainty interval (e.g., a confidence interval).
  • Manufacturers of pressure instruments typically provide specifications that include uncertainty values under certain conditions.
  • Additionally, organizations and standards bodies may provide guidelines for assessing and reporting uncertainty in pressure measurements.
  • Regular calibration, proper maintenance, and adherence to best practices can help minimize uncertainties in pressure measurements.

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