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DEVICE FOR MEASURING FLUID PROPERTIES IN CAUSTIC ENVIRONMENTS
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The subject matter disclosed herein relates generally to fluid fittings, and more particularly, to embodiments of a fluid fitting that are configured to measure properties of fluids in harsh, caustic enviromnents such as the enviromnent in a fuel system.
There are many devices that can measure the properties of fluids. These devices include the fittings and couplings (hereinafter “fittings”) that are used to secure, and in some cases restrain, the hoses, pipes, and lines which cany the fluid between two points. These fittings may incorporate devices such as sensors that are particularly responsive to one or more of the properties of the fluid. Temperature sensors, pressure sensors, and the like are all suitable devices that can be incorporated as part of the fitting. Certain applications, however, require that the fittings have special construction, wl1ich can withstand the physical and chemical rigors imposed by the fluid enviromnent. These enviromnents can include, for example, fuel can"ying and distribution systems that are typically found in automobiles.
While fittings have been developed that can monitor the fuel and other fluids in these systems, few of these fittings can incorporate semiconductor die and similar devices such as ceramic and similar capacitive devices. In one example, techniques that use epoxy to secure such devices to a metal or plastic component are inadequate because the epoxy can fail due to the thennal cycling and/ or pressure cycling inherent in the automotive enviromnents. The epoxy, as well as the other materials of construction, can also breakdown due to exposure to the caustic chemical properties of the fluid in the fuel system. Furthennore, it has also been found that residual stresses can be induced in the devices themselves by the epoxy during the curing/adhesion processes. These stresses can require additional mitigating steps to compensate for deviations in the measurements by the device.
In another example, some fittings that are used to measure fluid pressure in a pipe can incorporate such ceramic capacitive circuits as circuits that are printed on stainless steel foil. This approach requires that the fitting comprise a large stainless steel housing, as well as a threaded cormector and brazed joint for securing the housing to the pipe. This construction makes the overall package bulky, a problem for the automotive enviromnents because the larger components in the fuel system significantly increase the risk of damage in a crash scenario. Moreover, due to the space constraints in the automobile engine compartment, the use of such large monitoring fittings may require changes to the components, design, and sheet metal of the vehicle.
Still other examples of fittings for measuring fluid properties are susceptible to electrostatic discharge (“ESD”). That is, such fittings are constructed of conductive materials that, while compatible with the particular fluid of the system, can permit charge to build up at least witl1in and around the fluid pathway. These fittings often discharge the built-up charge with external hardware, e.g., grounding straps. This hardware, however, can generally hinder application and use of the fitting in the enviromnents discussed above.
Therefore, it would be advantageous to provide a fitting that can measure properties of the fluid, but that is designed and manufactured for robust, and varied applications. It would also be advantageous, for example, to provide a fitting that can be operatively configured to be installed, removed, and re-installed easily, and quickly during manufacturing,
production, and service of, e.g., automobiles and automobile fuel systems. Moreover, such fittings could provide other advantages are needed that can withstand caustic environments, dissipate electrical charge, and provide reliable, platform technology for monitoring a variety of properties of the fluids in these systems, while being constructed in a manner that meets the cost, size, and other constraints of the automotive industry.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
In one embodiment, a device for connecting a plurality of tubes comprises a non-conductive housing that can comprise a receptacle end for receiving a plug device. The device can also comprise a ground path for conducting charge to the receptacle end, and a conductive housing coupled to the ground path. The conductive housing can comprise a first fluid pathway for receiving a fluid, and a mating portion secured to the non-conductive housing, where the mating portion can have an aperture exposing the first fluid pathway to the non-conductive housing. The device can further comprise a sensing element housing that is disposed in the aperture, where the sensing element housing can comprise a first open end proximate the non-conductive housing, a second open end proximate the first fluid pathway, and a second fluid pathway that extends from the first open end and the second open end, the second fluid pathway for receiving the fluid from the first fluid pathway. The device can still further comprise a sensing element exposed to the fluid in the second fluid pathway, the sensing element for collecting data about a property of the fluid.
In another embodiment, a fluid fitting can comprise a body that can comprise a non-conductive housing, and a conductive housing that is coupled to the non-conductive housing, where the conductive housing can have a first fluid pathway for receiving a fluid. The fluid fitting can also comprise a conductive tenninal that extends through the non-conductive housing, the conductive tenninal can comprise a terminal body with an end in electrical contact with the conductive housing. The fluid fitting can further comprise a sensing device responsive to a property of the fluid, the sensing device can comprise a sensing element housing that extends into the conductive housing. The sensing element housing can comprise a first open end proximate the non-conductive housing, a second open end proximate the first fluid pathway, and a second fluid pathway extending between the first open end and the second open end, the second fluid pathway receiving the fluid from the first fluid pathway. The fluid fitting can still further comprise a seal in surrounding relation to the sensing element housing, the seal can comprise at least one surface in contact with the conductive housing.
In yet another embodiment, a fluid fitting for monitoring properties of a fluid. The fluid fitting can comprise a nonconductive housing for receiving a plug device, a conductive housing secured to the non-conductive housing, where the conductive housing can have a first fluid pathway for receiving the fluid, and a mating portion coupled to the non-conductive housing with a weldment, the mating portion can comprise an aperture exposing the first fluid pathway. The fluid fitting can also comprise a sensing element housing that extends through the aperture, in which the sensing element housing can comprise a first open end proximate the nonconductive housing, a second open end proximate the first fluid pathway, and a second fluid pathway extending between the first open end and the second open end, where the second fluid pathway receiving fluid from the first fluid pathway. The fluid fitting can further comprise a seal in surrounding rela
tion to the sensing element housing, the seal having a surface in contact with the aperture, as well as a sensing element exposed to the second fluid pathway, the sensing element for sensing properties of the fluid in the first fluid pathway. The fluid fitting can be further described wherein the non-conductive housing comprises a conductive terminal extending through the non-conductive housing in a manner discharging electrons from the conductive housing to the plug device.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
So that the manner in which the features of the invention can be understood in detail, a detailed description of which can be had had by reference to certain embodiments, some of which are illustrated in the accompanying drawings. It is to be noted, however, that the drawings illustrate only certain embodiments of this invention and are therefore not to be considered limiting of its scope, for the scope of the invention encompasses other equally effective embodiments. The drawings are not necessarily to scale, emphasis generally being placed upon illustrating the principles of certain embodiments of invention.
Thus, for further understanding of the invention, references can be made to the following detailed description, read in connection with the drawings in which:
FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram of a fuel injection system that comprises a fluid fitting that is made in one embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 2 is a perspective, exploded assembly view of a fluid fitting that is made in another embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 3 is a side, cross section, assembly view of the embodiment of the fluid fitting of FIG. 2.
FIG. 4 is a side, cross-section, assembly view of a fluid fitting that is made in accordance with yet another embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 5 is a side, cross-section, assembly view of a fluid fitting that is made in accordance with still yet another embodiment of the invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
This written description uses examples to disclose the invention, including the best mode, and also to enable any person skilled in the art to practice the invention, including making and using any devices or systems and perfonning any incorporated methods. The patentable scope of the invention is defied by the claims, and may include other examples that occur to those skilled in the art. Such other examples are intended to be within the scope of the claims if they have structural elements that do not differ from the literal language of the claims, or if they include equivalent structural elements with insubstantial differences from the literal language of the claims.
There is providedbelow embodiments of a fluid fitting, and a system comprising the same, with features adapted for fluid-carrying tubing in pressurized enviromnents, and in one embodiment the fitting can be compatible with harsh, caustic fluids. These embodiments can be configured to measure properties such as temperature, and pressure of the fluid, and also to discharge electrons that can build-up on portions of the fluid fitting, such as within the portion of the fluid fitting in which the fluid passes. These characteristics are beneficial because fluid fittings that incorporate such concepts can be constructed of materials, e. g., conductive and non-conductive polymers, which can reduce the size, weight, and cost of the fluid fitting. Likewise these materials can comprise other materials, components, and the like that are useful for pro
tecting the fitting (and its associated electrical components) from ESD and ESD-related problems. Additional details of these and other features are discussed in connection with the embodiments of the fluid fitting that are illustrated in FIGS. 2-5 and described below. Before discussing those details, and to further develop some of the general concepts of embodiments of the invention, however, reference can be had to the high-level schematic diagram of FIG. 1, in which is depicted one exemplary implementation of a fluid fitting of the type contemplated herein.
So with reference now to FIG. 1, and by way of nonlimiting example, it is seen that a fluid fitting 100 that is made in one embodiment of the invention can be implemented as part of a fuel injection system such as would be found in automotive vehicles. The fluid fitting 100 can comprise a body 102 with an input side 104, an output side 106, and a fluid pathway 108 that pennits a fluid such as fuel to flow therebetween. The fluid fitting 100 can also comprise a sensing device 110 that communicates with the fluid pathway 108 so as to pennit the fuel to interact with the sensing device 110. This interaction can permit data and infonnation about the fuel to be collected, such as, but not limited to, temperature, pressure, flow rate, fuel chemistry, as well other properties consistent with fuel (and other fluids) of the type disclosed and contemplated herein.
The body 102 of the fluid fitting 100 can be constructed monolithically, such as would be found in a single, extruded plastic part, or as elements that are individually fonned and assembled together. In one embodiment, the body 102 can comprise elements that are constructed of different materials, such as one element that can comprise conductive material, and one element that can comprise non-conductive material. These elements can be coupled together so as to provide a ground path (not shown) through the non-conductive material. This ground path can discharge electrons that build-up on the conductive material such as can be caused by the flow of the fluids in the fluid pathway 108. In one example, the ground path can comprise a conductive material that is incorporated into the non-conductive element. This material can be in the form of a metallic pin or tenninal, which can have an end in contact with the conductive element and an end coupled to ground. The ground can be included in a plug device such as an electrical cormector coupled to the body 102. This configuration can be particularly beneficial because the use of ground path prevents the communicating temiinals of the electrical connector from being shorted by conductive resins that may be used to provide an electrostatic ground path for applications that include electrically conductive fluids. A detailed example of one configuration of such a terminal is provided in connection with FIG. 3 below.
The body 102 and/or each of the elements can be fonned of conductive and non-conductive materials, such as conductive and non-conductive polymers, metals (e.g., stainless steel), as well as composites and any combinations thereof. The elements can be coated with materials that can be selected because of their compatibility with the fluid, and the fluid medium, such as is the case with materials that have physical and/or chemical properties that resist corrosion in caustic enviromnents. Manufacturing processes implemented to make the elements of the fluid fitting 100 include casting, molding, extruding, machining (e.g., tuming, and milling) and other techniques that are suitable for forming the various elements and components of the fluid fitting 100, some of which are disclosed and described herein. Because these processes, and the materials that are utilized by such processes, are generally well-known to those having ordinary skill in the automotive arts, no additional details will be provided herein,