Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Diaphragm Seals: Critical Isolation and Protection for Your Process Instruments

Diaphragm Seal
Diaphragm Seal courtesy of
Diaphragm seals play a critical role in protecting items like pressure switches, gauges, and transmitters from the fluid being evaluated by the sensor. The seal is a flexible membrane which both seals and isolates an enclosure. Pressure crosses the barrier without inhibition, but the material being contained does not. Typical materials composing diaphragm seals are elastomers, with rubbers being the prime substance in both general and specialty purposes.

In the operating principle of the diaphragm seal, the chamber between the diaphragm and the instrument is filled with system fluid, allowing for the transfer of pressure from the process media to the sensor being protected. The seals are attached to the process by threaded, open flange, sanitary, or other forms of connection.  The seals can also be known as ‘chemical seals’ or ‘gauge guards’. Stainless steel, Carpenter 20, Hastelloy, Monel, Inconel, and titanium are used in high pressure environments, and some materials are known to work better when paired with certain chemicals.
Diagram of diaphragm seal
Diagram of diaphragm seal
(courtesy of Wikipedia)

Sanitary processes, such as food and pharmaceuticals, use diaphragm seals to prevent against the accumulation of process fluid in pressure ports. If such a buildup were to occur, such as milk invading a pressure port on a pressure gauge and spoiling, the quality and purity of the fluid in the process may be compromised. Extremely pure process fluids, like ultra-pure water, could be contaminated by the metal surface of a process sensor. Pneumatic systems rely on the elimination of even the smallest pressure fluctuations, and diaphragm seals prevent those by ensuring the separation of the process materials from the sensors.

UE Pressure Switch
Diaphragm seals protect the sensors
on pressure switches like this
United Electric Controls model.
Despite their protective function and reliability, there are some potential complications related to diaphragm seals. Devices are now built to address and counter many potential issues related to process monitoring involving diaphragm seals. Products seek to eliminate any and all “dead space,” allow for continuous process flow, and are self-cleaning thanks to continuous flow design. Some high pressure seals come equipped with anti-clogging features, accomplished by the elimination of internal cavities while protecting gauges. Multi-purpose seals reduce temperature influence and improve instrument performance while pinpointing and diffusing areas of high stress. These pre-emptive measures result in longer instrument life-cycles and improve performance while ensuring protection from corrosion. The seals’ ability to protect both process quality and their own vitality make them essential components of process control.

For more information on diaphragm seals, visit Ives Equipment at or call (877) 768-1600.