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1

COMSOL Consultant, 2Lord Engineering Corp.

*Corresponding author: 135 Sixth Street, Del Mar, CA 92014, kurtlund@roadrunner.com

Abstract: Pressure-drop experiments were (here atmospheric), and velocity at the inlet;

conducted for the turbulent, compressible flow of however, for inlet condition specified as mass

air in a small, slender tube, and modeled with flow, the unknown pressure at the inlet is needed

COMSOL heat transfer module, and analytically. to determine the velocity. Therefore, a scalar

A scalar integration variable is introduced which integration variable is introduced which

integrates the mass velocity [kg/m2s] over the integrates the mass velocity [kg/m2s] over the

inlet area and iteratively equates this to the input inlet area and iteratively equates this to the

mass flow [kg/s]. For computation, the specified mass flow, mdot[kg/s].

temperature specification is related to the local, For computation, the COMSOL built-in

calculated pressure through the isentropic library properties for air were used initially,

relationships. Additionally, based on the which, with a constant temperature, resulted in

numerical results, an analytical 1-D model is the isothermal compression of the flow.

derived. The results show significant density However, the high-velocity air-flow is closer to

variations along the tube, and indicate choking at adiabatic conditions; thus, the temperature

the outlet (Ma ~ 1) for the highest flow. For the specification was related to the local, calculated

adiabatic conditions, there is excellent agreement pressure through the isentropic relationships.

with the experimental data for a wide range of The results of the COMSOL computation

flows, though excluding near-choking conditions show significant density variation along the tube,

at the outlet. and indicate choking at the outlet (Ma ~ 1) for

Keywords: compressible air-flow, COMSOL the highest flow. For the adiabatic conditions,

scalar integration variable, experimental data, there is excellent agreement with the

analytical approximation, specified mass flow. experimental data for a wide range of flows,

though excluding near-choking conditions at the

1. Introduction outlet for the highest flow case.

temperatures and pressures is important in many

industrial applications. However, it is In order to determine the pressure drop

impractical to conduct experiments at the across the test piece, compressed air was forced

application conditions; therefore, scale-up of through the slender tube via a flexible hose,

experimental results in atmospheric air to other using a rotameter and pressure gauge for the

gases at higher temperatures and pressures measurements, as shown in Fig. 1 below:

requires numerical modeling. Although

Test

numerical modeling can be done directly, Hose Piece

experimental verification is important to assure Pressure 0-30

accuracy. Usually, process applications are Gauge psig

experimental measurements are scaled for the

F

In this paper, the air-flow experiment is w/ valve SCFH

used with the k- turbulence theory to model the Compressed Air Supply

HV

axis-symmetric flow and pressure fields.

Additionally, based on the numerical results, an

Figure 1: Test Setup

analytical 1-D model is derived.

The usual boundary conditions for flow

To correct for the pressure loss in the hose

simulation are specified pressure at the outlet

and fittings, a test was also run without the tube

(test section) connected. In this way, when the

comparative pressures are subtracted, the

pressure drop for the test section, only, is

obtained.

Using a rotameter [60-600 SCFH+/-12 (2%)]

and digital pressure gauge [0-30psig+/-0.3psi

(1%)], tests were conducted from 100-400 SCFH

by 50 SCFH increments and pressures recorded;

tests with these conditions were repeated without

the test section installed.

The observed rotameter readings were Figure 2. COMSOL Axis-symmetric Geometry

corrected for pressure using equation (1a):

P1 The inlet plenum matches the experimental

Q2 Q1 geometry, including a small radius at the tube-

P2 entrance corner; although quite small, the fillet

(1a)

had an important smoothing effect on the flow

where:

development and pressure drop, as indicated by

Q1= observed flow meter reading;

the streamlines in Fig. 3.

Q2= standard flow corrected for pressure;

P1= observed absolute pressure;

P2= standard absolute pressure (1 atm);

These corrected volumetric flows were then

converted to kg/hr using equation (1b):

kg kg

Q2 Q2 SCFH 2 3

hr ft (1b)

where 2 = is the density [kg/ft3] at 70OF and

14.7 psia [0.03397 kg/ft3].

The pressure drop across the slender tube,

only, was then calculated by subtracting the

empty hose pressure drop:

PTube PTotal PEmpty

(1c)

Typically, in applications, it is the mass flow Figure 3. Inlet Streamlines

that is specified [kg/hr], rather than the

volumetric flow; therefore, the above corrections The inlet velocity is computed from a scalar

were made. The results are in the Appendix. integration variable, as shown in Fig. 4:

4.2mm x 150mm tube, having inlet and outlet

plena, was modeled with COMSOL. This

geometry is shown in Fig. 2, where the flow is

from left to right, with Uin as the plenum inlet

velocity.

This shows that Uin is to be selected (by

COMSOL) such that the function

intop1(spf.rho*w)-mdot = 0; or, in other words,

such that the integration operator 1 integrates the

computed mass velocity w over the inlet area

and iteratively sets the value to the specified

mass flow rate, mdot. Although this procedure is

automatic in the CFD module, it was not

available in the Heat Transfer module at this

writing.

There is another important feature of the

model: because the rapid, compressible flow is

adiabatic, the temperature and density along the

tube varies. Thus, the variables must be set as

shown in Fig. 5, where p is the calculated Figure 7. Inlet Flow Distribution.

pressure:

It is seen that at this mass flow, there is

substantial velocity of ~200 m/s in the tube.

There is also substantial pressure conversion, as

shown by the gauge pressures in Fig. 8:

the inlet mass flow can be specified; thus, at a

mass flow rate of 10 kg/h, the velocities appear

as in Fig 6:

pressure recovery, shown in Figs. 9 and 10:

layer developments, shown in Fig. 7 for 10 kg/h:

20

15 Legend

COMSOL

p [psid] Experiment

Analytical

10

0

0 5 10 15 20

In summary, the axial pressure profiles for four

mass flows, 5 - 20 kg/h, are as shown in Fig. 11: mdot [kg/h]

Figure 12. Overall Pressure Drop Results.

Figure 13. Exit Flow at 15 kg/h.

The highest flow (light green curve) shows

instability at the outlet because of choking

and for the choked condition at 20 kg/h

conditions. The curvature is the result of flow

acceleration due to density variations.

4. Comparison of Results.

It is seen that there is excellent agreement

between experiment and computation at the

lower flows, which emphasizes the accuracy

of the experimental approach, and of the

applicability of the k- turbulence model.

At the higher flows, the flow is becoming

choked at the outlet, and the mildly- Figure 14. Exit Flow at 20 kg/h.

compressible COMSOL model is strictly not

applicable; additionally some experimental It is seen that the core velocity at 15 kg/h is

error may be present for this case. at Ma = 1, and that this condition is exceeded at

20 kg/h; the latter exhibits the diamond

patterns associated with supersonic nozzles.

5. One-dimensional Theory.

pressure gradient is stated as in (2a): (3c)

Where V0 = G/0 and a 0 was factored in for

convenience. Once the temperature at x = L is

(2a) determined, the pressure is obtained from pL =

Where G = mdot/A is the (constant) mass p0(TL/T0)/(-1), and the friction pressure loss as

velocity, and f = 0.3164/Re0.25 is the Blasius follows: pf = p - pL, where p is the pressure

friction formula for smooth walls. Here, Re = after the inlet acceleration loss.

GD/; except for the viscosity, the Reynolds The pressure curves from COMSOL (Fig.

number and friction factor are also constant 11) shows the (mostly) linear friction part in the

along the length. The adiabatic compression center, the acceleration pressure drop at the

relation between the pressure and density are as inlet, and the pressure recovery at the outlet.

follows: Hence, the recovery at the exit is stated as

(2b)

where subscript 0 denotes a reference value,

which can be taken as the approximate inlet

conditions. Thus, (2a) is written as

(4a)

where there is conversion of 1 velocity head;

Similarly, for the inlet (where a conversion is

included in Kin):

(2c)

The integration of (2c) over < x < L, where is

a short distance from the inlet, yields

(4b)

By comparison with the COMSOL data for

15 kg/h, as shown in Fig. 11, the inlet and outlet

head-loss coefficients are determined as Kin = 1

(conversion) + 0.70 and Kout = 0.65. Keeping

these values fixed, and determining the friction

(3a) losses by the Blasius formula, the pressure drop

However, these exponential pressure ratios are data are as shown by the red squares in Fig. 12.

just the adiabatic temperature ratios; thus, (3a) is It is seen that there is good agreement, except for

the highest, choked flow rate.

6. Conclusions

(3b)

Hence, the adiabatic temperature at location L is Careful experiments and COMSOL modeling

were performed for the compressible flow of air

in a small slender tube. Excellent agreement was

found between the tests and models for moderate

flows, corroborating the accuracy of the tests and

the COMSOL k- turbulence model for this

geometry. Only at near-choking conditions was

there divergence in the results.

A special technique was employed in

COMSOL in order to specify inlet mass flow.

This is the quantity usually specified in process

applications.

Additionally, a 1-D analytical model was

constructed which adds insight to the

thermodynamic process of compressible flow;

with inlet and outlet loss coefficients derived

from one COMSOL model, this model also

agreed well with the experiments.

7. Acknowledgements

appreciation to the Lord Engineering

Corporation, Stephen M. Lord, President, for its

generous support of this work.

8. Appendix

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