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An Integrated Thermal Science MATLAB® Project

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Technical Session: Labs & Projects - New Opportunities

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Tom Eldredge Liberty University

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Tom Eldredge received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees all in mechanical engineering from the University of Tennessee. He is an Associate Professor of mechanical engineering at Liberty University. He is a Professional Engineer, licensed in the state of Connecticut. Tom Eldredge has over 25 years of experience in computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling, related to the power industry for design of combustion systems, cooling tower modeling, and hydro power applications. He has an interest in energy research, particularly as it relates to the thermal sciences and fluid mechanics.

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John H. Jones Liberty University

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John H. Jones received a BS in mechanical engineering with a nuclear minor from Virginia Tech and a PhD in mechanical engineering from the University of Virginia. Additionally he has several masters in mechanical and industrial/systems engineering from the two universities. He has over 40 years of experience developing thermal science computer codes and methods for a global energy provider. He is an adjunct instructor at Liberty University and is interested in bringing industrial type problems into the classroom.

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Thermal science courses are typically taught as separate disciplines (thermodynamics, heat transfer, and fluid dynamics) with very little if any integration of the disciplines. Industrial applications of thermal science use all three disciplines in an integrated manner. A vertical heated pipe flow problem is used at Liberty University in an attempt to help the mechanical engineering students see that the three disciplines of thermal science are integrated and not segregated. The vertical heated pipe flow problem requires that a software tool be used to generate a solution. For this application MATLAB® was used, although EXCEL® was also considered.

The heated pipe flow problem has a nonuniform axial power profile, with a series of different profiles assigned. The first law of thermodynamics is required to generate an axial enthalpy profile based on inlet boundary conditions. Based on the axial enthalpy profile a MATLAB®-based equation of state is used to generate all the required thermal properties. Bernoulli’s equation is required to generate an axial pressure drop profile, based on variable axial isothermal friction correlations (major head loss) and minor head losses due to structural components in the pipe. Axial pipe wall temperature results are required and are based on flow dependent Nusselt Number relationships. The last computational requirement is the generation of a safety factor, based on an open literature critical heat flux (CHF) correlation, which accounts for the nonuniform axial power profile. The safety factor is generated based on the local CHF compared to the actual local heat flux.

Upon completion of the MATLAB® calculations the students are required to generate an engineering project report that contains the project introduction, derivation of governing equations (based on starting with the standard textbook equations), units checks, coding description (including flow charts), results, and final conclusions. These are the type of topics typically included in an industrial engineering analysis report. The report must include graphical representations of the results and a final recommendation as to whether the design (based on the nonuniform axial power profile) is safe.

The integrated thermal science project is given the semester after the students completed a first course in thermodynamics and an introduction to MATLAB®. The project is in the same semester they are taking fluid dynamics, heat transfer, and computer-aided engineering. A learning assessment assignment is used at the start of the semester and the end of the semester to determine how much the project enhanced the student’s perception of thermal science as an integrated discipline and not a series of separate disciplines.

Eldredge, T., & Jones, J. H. (2020, June), An Integrated Thermal Science MATLAB® Project Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34135

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