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Teaching Energy System Design Using Computer Simulation

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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

Energy Programs and Software Tools

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1174.1 - 9.1174.12

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Paper Authors

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Michael Sexton

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

Session 2004-1840


Michael R. Sexton

Mechanical Engineering Department Virginia Military Institute Lexington, Virginia


This paper describes the use of system simulation in teaching the design and optimization of energy systems at the undergraduate level. A case study involving the optimum design of a vapor compression refrigeration system is presented. This project was selected from senior level courses in Energy Conversion Design, Aircraft Propulsion and Internal Combustion Engines. The project selected is particularly relevant in that it demonstrates the use of several modeling and simulation techniques. The paper includes the project statement that provides the student with the design point operating characteristics, which are necessary to develop a design point thermodynamic model. Characteristic curves for the various system components used are also provided. The paper discusses the process by which the student must develop the system of equations necessary to model the thermal system and then use the model to predict the off-design performance of the system. The necessary equations to describe the various components and processes are developed from the first law of thermodynamics and appropriate heat transfer and power relationships. Additionally, curve fits of the graphic component characteristics data must be developed. The graphic data, representing components are curve fitted using multiple regression methods. For the case study project modeled, a system of seven linear/nonlinear equations is developed.

Mathcad was used for the simultaneous solution of the resulting system of equations. Although other software capable of solving this system of equations is available, Mathcad was selected because of the ease of programming and the capability to handle systems of nonlinear equations. The student can be given sufficient instruction to solve this system of equations with minimal class time taken away from the primary purpose of the courses, that is, the understanding and design of thermal systems. In the solution of any system involving nonlinear equations care must be taken in the selection of initial trial values of the unknown variables. For simulations close to the system’s design operating point, the student simply chooses the design point values for initial trial values. For simulations that are further from the design operating conditions, the student must exercise some judgment in selecting these initial trial values. The student’s understanding of the system’s physical operation is necessary in the selection of these values.

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

Sexton, M. (2004, June), Teaching Energy System Design Using Computer Simulation Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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