Pressure Measurement & Pressure Measuring Instruments

Pressure is probably the most common measurement made by the instrument engineer. Pressure measuring instruments are used not only for pressure measurement, but also to infer other industrial measurements e.g.
Flow - measuring the pressure dropped across a restriction e.g. an orifice plate,
Liquid Level - measuring the pressure created by a vertical liquid column,
Liquid Density - measuring the pressure difference across a fixed-height liquid column,
Weight - as used in a hydraulic load cell.

Atmospheric Pressure

Atmospheric pressure, also known as barometric pressure, is the pressure within the atmosphere of Earth. So when measuring pressure the instrument engineer can either measure pressure above atmospheric pressure, this is called gauge pressure, or measure pressure above an absolute vacuum, so called absolute pressure.
See our page on Gauge and Absolute Pressure measurement and conversion for more details of why this is important, and how to easily convert between gauge and absolute pressures.

Common Units of Pressure

The SI unit of pressure is the pascal (Pa), defined as a force of one Newton per square meter. However in industry it is very common for other units to be used e.g. psi, bar, torr etc. Converting between units is relatively straight forward, and something that instrument engineers and process engineers have to do daily.
See our page on Pressure units and pressure unit conversion for more details of the more common units of pressure and a handy pressure unit conversion table.



Pressure Measuring Instrument

There are numerous types of pressure instrument, ranging from the simple manometer through the mechanical pressure-sensing elements like the bordon tube, to the more complex electronic differential pressure transmitter.

Manometer. A manometer is a fluid-filled tube where an applied gas pressure causes the fluid height to shift proportionately. This is why pressure is often measured in units of liquid height (e.g. inches of water, inches of mercury)

Mechanical Pressure Elements. Mechanical pressure-sensing elements include the bellows, the diaphragm, and the bourdon tube. Each of these devices converts a fluid pressure into a force. If unrestrained, the natural elastic properties of the element will produce a motion proportional to the applied pressure.
Mechanical pressure-sensing elements are at the heart of most pressure gauges. See our page on Mechanical Pressure Gauges for an expalnation of the different types, and how to select the correct type for your application.

Electronic Pressure Instruments. Several different technologies exist for the conversion of fluid pressure into an electrical signal. These technologies form the basis of electronic pressure transmitters: devices designed to measure fluid pressure and transmit that information via electrical signals such as the 4-20 mA analogue standard, or in digital form such as HART or FOUNDATION Fieldbus.

Technical Library

The following pages on Control and give more detail on the different units of pressure and various commonly used pressure measuring instruments:

gauge to absolute pressure conversion

units of pressure

pressure gauge attachments
















Further Reading

For those who want to delve further into the techniques employed in pressure measurement then the following may be of interest: