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A Versatile Compressible Fluid Experiment

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Chemical Engineering Poster Session & Unit Operations Lab Bazaar

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.126.1 - 23.126.13



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Paper Authors


William M. Clark Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Dr. William Clark is an associate professor in the Chemical Engineering Department at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He holds a B.S. from Clemson University and a Ph.D. from Rice University, both in Chemical Engineering. He has taught thermodynamics, separation processes, and unit operations laboratory for over 25 years. In addition to research efforts in teaching and learning, he has conducted disciplinary research in separation processes.

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A Versatile Compressible Fluid ExperimentIn this poster we describe a versatile compressible fluid flow experiment that we haveimplemented in our unit operations laboratory. Based on the work of Luyben and Tuzla [1], wedesigned, constructed, and implemented an inexpensive experiment to study pressure dropduring air flow through a 10 ft section of stainless steel pipe. In agreement with Luyben andTuzla, we found that this experiment was useful for addressing misconceptions and a lack ofexperience with compressible fluids. We also added several interesting features to theexperiment including a Coriolis meter, an anemometer, an inline heater, a PID temperaturecontroller, a vortex tube, and a Tesla turbine.The heater is used to change the air temperature and allow investigation of how temperatureaffects flow measurements in the various flow meters. Measuring the volts and amps applied tothe heater also provides an opportunity to perform an energy balance. The temperaturecontroller allows our students to get some exposure to process control and could be used in aseparate experiment to teach process control principles. A LabView computer interface is usedto display the process temperatures and an option is available to use a LabView PID controllerwith readily adjustable process control parameters or a commercial PID controller.The Coriolis meter and anemometer are used to compare the measured air flow to that using tworotameters at different points in the process. Students learn to appreciate the need to correct fortemperature and pressure of flow readings for compressible fluids and get a physical feel for howthe factors change density, velocity, and volumetric flow rate in the pipe.The vortex tube and Tesla turbine provide interesting opportunities to apply first and second lawof thermodynamics analysis to flow systems. With no moving parts or applied fields the vortextube takes an inlet air stream at room temperature and separates it into a hot stream and a coldstream. Adjusting a valve on the hot stream varies the flow rate and temperature of the twooutlet streams. The Tesla turbine takes input air at known temperature, pressure and flow rateand generates electricity to light three 20 W light bulbs. We are in the process of connecting theturbine to volt and amp meters to facilitate analysis of its efficiency.We have also developed COMSOL Multiphysics models for air flow in smooth and rough pipes,an in-line air heater, and a rotameter In the poster we will describe how these experiments andmodels can provide students with a clear understanding of how the temperature and pressuredependence of the air density affects the flow process.1. William L. Luyben and Kemal Tuzla, Gas Pressure-Drop Experiment, Chem. Eng. Education,44 (3), pp. 183-188, Summer (2010).

Clark, W. M. (2013, June), A Versatile Compressible Fluid Experiment Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19140

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