Samir Khan

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11 years, 79 days

My role is to help customers better exploit our tools. I’ve worked in selling, supporting and marketing maths and simulation software for all my professional career.

I’m fascinated by the full breadth and range of application of Maple. From financial mathematics and engineering to probability and calculus, I’m always impressed by what our users do with our tools.

However much I strenuously deny it, I’m a geek at heart. My first encounter with Maple was as an undergraduate when I used it to symbolically solve the differential equations that described the heat transfer in a series of stirred tanks. My colleagues brute-forced the problem with a numerical solution in Fortran (but they got the marks because that was the point of the course). I’ve since dramatized the process in a worksheet, and never fail to bore people with the story behind it.

I was born, raised and spent my formative years in England’s second city, Birmingham. I graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering from The University of Nottingham, and after completing a PhD in Fluid Dynamics at Herriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, I started working for Adept Scientific – Maplesoft’s partner in the UK.

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These are Posts that have been published by Samir Khan

A few people have asked me how I created the sections in the Maple application in this video:

Here's the worksheet (Maple 2016 only). As you can see, the “sections” look different what you would normally expect (I often like to experiment with small changes in presentation!)

These aren't, however, sections in the traditional Maple sense; they're a demonstration of Maple 2016's new tools for programmatically changing the properties of a table (including the visibility of its rows and columns). @dskoog gets the credit for showing me the technique.

Each "section" consists of a table with two rows.

  • The table has a name, specified in its properties.
  • The first row (colored blue) contains (1) a toggle button and (2) the title of each section (with the text in white)
  • The second row (colored white) is visible or invisible based upon the state of the toggle button, and contains the content of my section.

Each toggle button has

  • a name, specified in its properties
  • + and - images associated with its on and off states (with the image background color matching the color of the first table row)
  • Click action code that enables or disables the visibility of the second row

The Click action code for the toggle button in the "Pure Fluid Properties" section is, for example,

if DocumentTools:-GetProperty(buttonName, 'value') = "false" then   
     DocumentTools:-SetProperty([tableName, 'visible[2..]', true]);
     DocumentTools:-SetProperty([tableName, 'visible[2..]', false]);
end if;

As I said at the start, I often try to make worksheets look different to the out-of-the-box defaults. Programmatic table properties have simply given me one more option to play about with.

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.

Valery Ochkov and Volodymyr Voloshchuk have developed a series of thermal engineering applications in Maple 2016. The applications explore steam turbine power generation and refrigeration cycles, and use the ThermophysicalData package for fluid properties.

Their work can be found at the following locations on the Application Center.

I especially like

  • this application, which optimizes the extraction pressures of a steam turbine to maximize its efficiency,
  • and this application, which plots the state of a two-stage refrigeration cycle on a pressure-enthalpy chart.

You, I, and others like us, are the beneficiaries of decades of software evolution.

From its genesis as a research project at the University of Waterloo in the early 80s, Maple has continually evolved to meet the challenges of technical computing.

This is a post that I wrote for the Altair Innovation Intelligence blog.

I have a grudging respect for Victorian engineers. Isambard Kingdom Brunel, for example, designed bridges, steam ships and railway stations with nothing but intellectual flair, hand-calculations and painstakingly crafted schematics. His notebooks are digitally preserved, and make for fascinating reading for anyone with an interest in the history of engineering.

His notebooks have several characteristics.

  • Equations are written in natural math notation
  • Text and diagrams are freely mixed with calculations
  • Calculation flow is clear and well-structured

Hand calculations mix equations, text and diagrams.


Engineers still use paper for quick calculations and analyses, but how would Brunel have calculated the shape of the Clifton Suspension Bridge or the dimensions of its chain links if he worked today?

If computational support is needed, engineers often choose spreadsheets. They’re ubiquitous, and the barrier to entry is low. It’s just too easy to fire-up a spreadsheet and do a few simple design calculations.

 Spreadsheets are difficult to debug, validate and extend.


Spreadsheets are great at manipulating tabular data. I use them for tracking expenses and budgeting.

However, the very design of spreadsheets encourages the propagation of errors in equation-oriented engineering calculations

  • Results are difficult to validate because equations are hidden and written in programming notation
  • You’re often jumping about from one cell to another in a different part of the worksheet, with no clear visual roadmap to signpost the flow of a calculation

For these limitations alone, I doubt if Brunel would have used a spreadsheet.

Technology has now evolved to the point where an engineer can reproduce the design metaphor of Brunel’s paper notebooks in software – a freeform mix of calculations, text, drawings and equations in an electronic notebook. A number of these tools are available (including Maple, available via the APA website).

 Modern calculation tools reproduce the design metaphor of hand calculations.


Additionally, these modern software tools can do math that is improbably difficult to do by hand (for example, FFTs, matrix computation and optimization) and connect to CAD packages.

For example, Brunel could have designed the chain links on the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and updated the dimensions of a CAD diagram, while still maintaining the readability of hand calculations, all from the same electronic notebook.

That seems like a smarter choice.

Would I go back to the physical notebooks that Brunel diligently filled with hand calculations? Given the scrawl that I call my handwriting, probably not.

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