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Introducing Excel Based Steam Table Calculations Into Thermodynamics Curriculum

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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

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.800.1 - 13.800.19



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Paper Authors


Joseph Chappell The University of Alabama

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Joseph Chappell is a graudating senior in Mechanical Engineering at The University of Alabama.

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Robert Taylor University of Alabama

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Dr. Robert P. Taylor is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Alabama. He has taught heat transfer and energy-related courses for 30 years.

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Keith Woodbury The University of Alabama

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Dr. Keith A. Woodbury is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Alabama. He has taught heat transfer and thermodynamics courses for 20 years, and also teaches numerical analysis.

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

Introducing Excel Based Steam Table Calculations into Thermodynamics Curriculum Abstract

To perform and document engineering analyses, a tool with consistent utilization and ready availability is much needed. In the classroom, the abundant access and ease of use of Microsoft Excel make it an excellent instrument to perform engineering calculations. Integration of Excel into thermodynamics courses requires finding a suitable method of finding properties on steam tables. A recent internet search revealed three Excel-based macros which are suitable for computing steam properties in a spreadsheet. A property can then be found by calling a function from the Excel workbook and evaluating that function using other known properties. Performing and documenting any thermodynamics calculations becomes greatly simplified when the readily available Microsoft Excel is used. This paper describes these three tools and evaluates their accuracy against published tables, discusses their suitability to the task, and illustrates their utilization in spreadsheet based example problems.


In an introductory thermodynamics course, the students and professor spend a great deal of time reading steam tables. Though this is a perfectly accurate method for determining needed properties, the time invested into reading a steam table takes away from a student’s time to apply the learned material of the course. Since the current process for finding properties in thermodynamics refers a student to a steam table, a better tool is needed. With the help of a powerful computational and organizational tool, more engineering analysis can be taught and learned throughout the thermodynamics course. An added ability to properly organize the analysis allows for better documentation and review at a later date. One of the most powerful tools with ready availability for most students is Microsoft Excel. Its unique capabilities like the macros in Visual Basic provide ample ability for calculations in engineering analysis. While a survey of students showed that Excel is a preferred tool over others such as Matlab and Mathcad, many freshmen already maintain some knowledge of the use of Excel from high school courses. The strength of using Excel in an introductory thermodynamics course lies with the ability to write macros for computing the steam properties in the spreadsheet atmosphere. With the ability to find a property without ever leaving a spreadsheet, engineering analysis can be well documented and saved for future reference.

The Excel macros

Upon searching the internet for macros to compute steam table properties, several results turn up. The desire for the macros to be freeware that is open to the public is necessary. This allows access for all students and teachers at any computer at any time. Three Excel based macros suitable for computing steam properties in a spreadsheet are available. The authors of each Magnus Holmgren1, Dr. Bernhard Spang2, and Lynn McGuire3 have all given consent for the usage of their macros with proper referencing. Both the Holmgren and Spang versions provide a list of functions that their macros are capable of calculating with known properties or states. The function calls the macro from the spreadsheet and outputs the desired value. The McGuire

Chappell, J., & Taylor, R., & Woodbury, K. (2008, June), Introducing Excel Based Steam Table Calculations Into Thermodynamics Curriculum Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3834

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