Is it possible to mount an ultrasonic sensor on the outer metal surface of tank/container to measure the level of the inside liquid ? the gap between the sensor and the metal surface would be 0 mm to 0.5 mm max.

Will the metal surface interfere the waves of sound or it will penetrate the metal due to the tiny gap ? (Picture showing the idea)

enter image description here

  • \$\begingroup\$ Surely you will need a hole... but see amazon.com/Smart-Oil-Gauge-Heating-Compatible/dp/B01M2VATHS \$\endgroup\$
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 30, 2018 at 8:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the suggested sensor on this link, I'm not sure about making any holes in the body of the tank, by the way it's the tank of my car & I'm developing a way to accurately measure the fuel level by average of four sensors on the corners (to eliminate the moving liquid effect) .. I think for insurance & after-sales services issues I cannot drill holes in the tank. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 30, 2018 at 8:55
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ well good luck - why do you think the float type gauge is still used? You may as well consider mounting the tank on a set of bathroom scales and subtracting readings due to vehicle motion... And, only for points of measurement : what about the irregularities in the liquid surface... \$\endgroup\$
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 30, 2018 at 8:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Imagine an ulterasound imaging camera checking a baby growing in the womb. Would it work through a metal plate? \$\endgroup\$
    – Andy aka
    Jul 30, 2018 at 8:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Andy aka - Yeah, I totally agree that metal is a strong reflective surface, but after I watched this video I asked this question - Please check it out if you don't mind youtube.com/watch?v=CwBqnNbKsPo \$\endgroup\$ Jul 30, 2018 at 9:04

1 Answer 1


Can you do this?:

Yes. We do it all the time. Having a thin metal tank wall can actually be preferable over a thick wall. In our case, the wall thickness can be 10-20mm as we routinely operate from ambient to 20,000 psi (140 MPa) and 120 C.

It is easier to shoot from the bottom up through the liquid, to the liquid's surface, as the liquid more closely matches the acoustic impedance of the transducer and tank wall (better than air anyway).

Does it work well?

Yes. But it's hard. You will need:

  • a quality source (ours is proprietary)
  • quality transducer (ours is proprietary)
  • a quality pulse/echo interface (yes)
  • and quality tuned receiver (you betcha, our own).
  • a high speed, synchronized, A2D converter (the easy part).

If you manage to design/acquire the above bits, then the accuracy reduced down to 3 things:

  • The calibration of the speed of acoustics in the liquid (which is temperature and pressure dependent). This is also done automatically in our systems - every other shot is a speed calibration shot.

  • The frequency of the transducer. Higher frequencies will typically result in higher resolution. Of course there are limits (we operate higher than 1 MHz).

  • Your arrival detection algorithm. There are all sorts. From simple time-of-flight on a scope (the most susceptible to error/interference), to embedding the maths in the silicon. That's up to you and your resources.

Does this apply well to a fuel tank?

I have some concerns here. If you're not careful, these type of signals and energy levels can results in arcs. Don't explode yourself.

The large surface area of the tank will reduce accuracy. This is because a small vertical distance results in a relatively large volume change. And add in a moving platform, sloshing, potholes, and I think that you're in for a noisy measurement. There are ways to mitigate these things. I'll let you think about that for a bit.

Good luck.



Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.