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Development Of Excel Add In Modules For Use In Thermodynamics Curriculum: Steam And Ideal Gas Properties

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Thermodynamics, Fluids and Heat Transfer - II

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.431.1 - 13.431.19



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Paper Authors

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Jesse Huguet University of Alabama

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Keith Woodbury University of Alabama

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Robert Taylor University of Alabama

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract



For engineering graduates entering the job market, experience with appropriate computational tools and techniques is increasingly necessary. Therefore, the University of Alabama’s Mechanical Engineering Department is introducing students to computational problem solving earlier in their college careers by developing Microsoft Excel-based modules to be used as teaching tools in the sophomore and junior-level thermodynamics and heat transfer courses. The MS Excel package was chosen as a software platform for this purpose because of its ubiquitous nature and its ability to utilize Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) macros in a spreadsheet format. In the sophomore-level thermodynamics course, much of the class material focuses on the properties of steam and ideal gases. Therefore, a suite of Microsoft Excel functions to compute steam and ideal gas properties and assist in analyzing properties of states and processes has been developed. A number of Excel packages that pertained to the computation of steam properties were already available in the public domain. In a companion paper1, these packages were compared and Magnus Holmgren’s Xsteam functions were chosen as a starting point for the current project. This paper details the modification of Holmgren’s Xsteam functions for classroom use and the creation of ideal gas property functions. The Xsteam functions, as packaged by Holmgren are an excellent collection for daily use in calculating steam properties, but lack key features needed to solve sophomore-level thermodynamics problems. A broader range of functions has been developed to cover common combinations of specified or known properties, and particularly, to provide specific volume relationships. A graphing function is included to allow students to plot states on various phase-diagrams to better understand the relationship between properties and state. The development, testing, classroom implementation, and student response to these functions is discussed.


Ubiquitous Nature of Excel An array of various computational tools has been developed to assist with thermodynamic class work. Almost every textbook now comes with a disc of executables developed to assist with the examples found inside. A survey of recent graduates of the University of Alabama revealed that none utilized any of these textbook-bundled tools. They are written in various languages, run on various platforms, and are, in some cases, useful only for certain specific examples or procedures. For a computational tool to be useful in a thermodynamics classroom, it must be versatile, universal, and accessible. It must be able to run on any PC with minimal setup, must be useful in solving the wide range of problems posed by the course, and must be easily accessed from any computer on campus and off.

Huguet, J., & Woodbury, K., & Taylor, R. (2008, June), Development Of Excel Add In Modules For Use In Thermodynamics Curriculum: Steam And Ideal Gas Properties Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4023

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