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Solution Of Complex Pipe Flow Problems Using Spreadsheets In An Introductory Fluid Mechanics Course

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

TIME 9: Thermal Fluids/Fluid Mechanics

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1108.1 - 9.1108.13

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Paper Authors

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Mark Schumack

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

Session 3666

Solution of complex pipe flow problems using spreadsheets in an introductory fluid mechanics course

Mark Schumack Department of Mechanical Engineering University of Detroit Mercy

I. Introduction

Students of classical fluid mechanics have routinely been taught how to use the Moody chart to solve pipe flow problems. Its use, however, is tedious for even relatively simple flow problems where velocity or diameter is the unknown because an iterative solution is required. Students can avoid repeated references to the Moody chart by using the equation solving functions in their scientific calculators to solve the Colebrook formula for the friction factor, f. Even with this tool, however, piping systems with parallel flow paths can still require a large amount of manual iteration to obtain a solution.

Bornt1 describes how spreadsheets can be used to calculate pressure drops for steam using an explicit formula for f as a function of Reynolds number and relative roughness. The steam specific volume is a function of pressure, necessitating an iterative solution process that Bornt handles manually. Lester2 shows how to use the “Goal Seek” function in Excel to solve the Colebrook formula for f. The Colebrook formula requires an iterative solution for f, a task performed automatically by “Goal Seek.” While the previous two papers deal with relatively simple single-pipe flows, Streeter and Wylie3 describe several computer algorithms and codes for the solution of more complicated pipe network problems. Asking students to write programs for such problems is normally beyond the scope of an introductory fluid mechanics course. Indeed, many practicing engineers, when faced with complex flow problems, will resort to commercially- available software packages. This paper describes an alternative way that uses the nonlinear equation solving capabilities of Excel to solve complex pipe flow problems in a relatively straightforward fashion. Besides giving students a tool for their future engineering practice, this technique opens up the possibility of providing the undergraduate fluids class with an opportunity to solve a real-world piping system design problem.

The paper describes the method, presents the application to several analysis and design problems, and discusses student response.

II. Using Excel Solver for Pipe Flow Problems

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Schumack, M. (2004, June), Solution Of Complex Pipe Flow Problems Using Spreadsheets In An Introductory Fluid Mechanics Course Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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