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Mass Flow vs Volumetric Flow
Nov 14, 2017

Mass is a measure of the amount of matter that makes up an object. The mass of an object is considered constant. Volume refers to the amount of space an object takes up. The volume of an object can change depending on pressure, temperature and other factors. In terms of flow, at room temperature and low pressures the volumetric and mass flow rate will be nearly identical, however, these rates can vary drastically with changes in temperature and/or pressure because the temperature and pressure of the gas both affect the volume. For example, assume a volumetric flow reading was used to fill balloons with 250 mL of helium, but the incoming line ran near a furnace that cycled on and off, intermittently heating the incoming helium. Because the volumetric meter simply measures the volume of gas flow, all of the balloons would initially be the same size. However, if all the balloons are placed in a room and allowed to come to an equilibrium temperature, they would generally all come out to be different sizes. If, on the other hand, a mass flow reading were used to fill the balloons with 250 standard mL of helium, the resulting balloons would initially be different sizes, but when allowed to come to an equilibrium temperature, they would all turn out to be the same size.