Mass Flow versus Volumetric Flow Rate

This post compares the mass flow rate to volumetric flow rate, revealing some distinct advantages for using thermal flowmeters, which measure mass flow rather than volumetric flow.

What is volumetric flow rate?

Volume is a three-dimensional measure of the area a substance occupies.

Volumetric flow is the measure of a substance moving through a device over time. Standard units of measurement for volumetric flow rate are meters3 /second, milliliters/second, or feet3/hour.

When heating gas, the molecules bounce off each other, the gas will expand, and the same amount of gas will now have a different space (i.e., Assuming it is not a fixed volume). If the volume is fixed, the pressure will increase when the temperature rises. Additionally, when increasing pressure, the volume measurement reduces.

For this reason, when measuring gas using a volumetric flow meter, temperature and pressure are required, along with the gas density to convert volumetric flow to mass flow.

Have questions on how thermal mass flow meters can benefit you?

mass flow rate to volumetric flow rate
While comparing mass flow rate to volumetric flow rate, some distinct advantages for using thermal flowmeters over volumetric meters come to light.

What is mass flow rate?

Mass is how much matter there is in a substance and often expressed in weight (grams, kilograms, tonnes, ounces, or pounds).

Mass flow rate is the amount of a mass moving through an instrument over time, so the unit of measure is mass (or weight) per unit of time. It is expressed as pounds/hour or kilograms/second or in some similar way. One of the advantages is that when measuring mass flow, the mass or weight does not vary when changing temperature or pressure. However, weight does change with gravity, but as long as we’re dealing with applications on Earth, mass flow is not influenced since the gravity is the same.

Benefits of Mass Flow Measurement

There are some distinct advantages of using mass flow meters over volumetric meters. When using volumetric meters, there is the added expense of acquiring and installing additional equipment for temperature and pressure correction. There is also the added computation required to convert the volumetric flow to mass flow. Additionally, mass flow measurement is recognized as offering more reliable, added accuracy, and better repeatability data than volumetric flow methods.

Examples of Mass Flow Meters

The following devices measure gas mass flow: Coriolis flow meters, thermal mass flow meters, ultrasonic meters, and rotometers.

Examples of Volumetric Flow devices

The following devices measure volumetric flow: positive displacement meters, turbine flow meters, orifice plates, Venturis, vortex meters, and Pitot tubes.


You can find more information on Gas Meter Types for Flow Measurement.

This video describes density, mass flow vs. volumetric flow rate.


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