where is the frequency of the signal received at the detector. Below you can find a sketch of the priciple:
Another form of flow sensor that is typically referred to as laser Doppler velocimeter has a completely different approach akin to an interferometer. A beam of monochromatic laser light is sent into the flow, and particles will reflect light with a Doppler shift corresponding to their velocities. The shift can be measured by interfering the reflected beam with the original beam, which will form beats according to the frequency difference. This is the type of sensor depicted here
LDV may be unreliable near non-specular solid surfaces, where stray reflections corrupt the signal. NASA is working on a variation that uses two pairs of beams so that polarization can be used to improve noise rejection. (citation?)
LDV is chosen over other forms of fluid velocity measurement such as Pitot tube measurements because the measurement equipment can be outside of the flow being measured and therefore have no effect on the flow.
LDV is used in clinical research as a mechanism to partially quantify blood flow in human tissues such as skin. However, within the clinical environment, LDV is referred to as laser Doppler flowmetry (LDF.) It has gained popularity because it is simple to use, painless and non-invasive, despite its extensive imaging time.
In principle a monochromatic laser beam is directed at the skin surface. Light that is reflected off stationary tissue undergoes no shift whilst light that is reflected off cells with velocity (like red blood cells) undergoes Doppler shift. The degree of Doppler shift is proportional to the velocity of the cell into which it collided. This light is randomly reflected back out of the tissue and onto a photodetector which calculates the average velocity of cells within the tissue.