Computing with Thermophysical Data

Maple 2016

When Maple 2016 hit the road, I finally relegated my printed Mollier charts and steam tables to a filing cabinet, and moved my carefully-curated spreadsheets of refrigerant properties to a distant part of my hard drive. The new thermophysical data engine rendered those obsolete.

Other than making my desk tidier, what I find exciting is that I can compute with fluid properties in a tool that has numerical integrators, ODE solvers, optimizers, programmatic visualisation and more.

Here are several small examples that demonstrate how you can use fluid properties with Maple’s math and visualization tools (this worksheet contains the complete examples).

Work Done in Compressing a Gas

The work done (per unit mass) in compressing a fluid at constant temperature is

where V1 and V2 are specific volumes and p is pressure.

You need a relationship between pressure and specific volume (either theoretical or experimental) to calculate the work done.

Assuming the ideal gas law, the work done becomes

where R is the ideal gas constant, T is the temperature (in K) and M is the molecular mass (in kg mol-1), and V is the volume.

Ideal gas constant

Molecular mass of propane

Hence the work done predicted by the Ideal Gas Law is

Let’s now use real fluid properties instead and numerical integrators to compute the work done.

Here, the work done predicted with the Ideal Gas Law and real fluid properties is similar. This isn’t, however, always the case for all gases (try experimenting with ammonia – its strong intermolecular forces result in non-ideal behavior).

Minimum Specific Heat Capacity of Water

The specific heat capacity of water varies with temperature like so.

Let's find the temperature at which the specific heat capacity of water is the lowest.

The lowest specific heat capacity occurs at 309.4 K; this is the temperature at which water requires the least energy to raise or lower its temperature.

Incidentally, this isn’t that far from the standard human body temperature of 310.1 K (given that the human body is largely water, one might hazard a guess why we have evolved to maintain this temperature).

Temperature-Entropy Plot for Water

Maple 2016 generates pressure-enthalpy-temperature charts and psychrometric charts out of the box. However, you can create your own customized thermodynamic visualizations.

This, for example, is a temperature-entropy chart for water, together with the two-phase vapor dome (the worksheet contains the code to generate this plot).

I'm also working on a lumped-parameter heat exchanger model with fluid properties (and hence heat transfer coefficients) that change with temperature. That'll be more complex than these simple examples, and will use Maple's numeric ODE solver.

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