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Advances in Engineering Software 40 (2009) 193–201

Copy Advances in Engineering Software 40 (2009) 193–201 Contents lists available at ScienceDirect Advances in

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Advances in Engineering Software

journal homepage: cate/advengsoft Flow analysis in valve with moving grids through CFD

Flow analysis in valve with moving grids through CFD techniques

C. Srikanth a,1 , C. Bhasker b, * ,2

a Department of Mechanical Engineering, Vasavi College of Engineering, Ibrahimbag, Hyderabad 500031, India b BHEL, Corp R&D Division, Hyderabad 500093, India

article info

Article history:

Received 8 February 2007 Received in revised form 7 January 2008 Accepted 4 April 2008 Available online 3 June 2008


Puffer chamber Moving element Fixed electrodes Multi-block single volume grid Compressible flow Moving grids



Flow simulation

Electro-fluid dynamics


The compressible air flow in a typical puffer chamber with moving contact between fixed electrodes has been studied using computational fluid dynamics techniques. Moving grid methods in CFD process not only plays a pivotal role in understanding the flow behavior in time domain but also helps for fixing the internals at optimal locations. A typical laboratory puffer chamber geometry has been extracted from the published literature and generated multi-block structured grid using Altair’s HyperMesh software. Flow simulation in axi-symmetry duct comprises fixed electrodes, moving contact and exit duct has been carried out with ANSYS-CFX software. It has been observed that, due to steps and curvature in the geom- etry, flow takes different turns from inlet and velocity distribution between fixed electrodes indicates vortex flow with turbulent eddies. CFD simulation with valve element mesh motion indicates that pres- sure history is significantly affected by the velocity of moving contact in the puffer chamber. The results obtained for a typical puffer chamber with the mesh motion are qualitative in nature and forms the sound basis for future design studies of electro-fluid dynamics of circuit breakers. 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction

Substations with circuit breakers in electrical power-stations [1] are very critical and protect the auxiliary components due to fault currents. SF6 gas-insulated substations (GIS) are preferred for several voltage ratings to protect power plant components due to internal breakdowns (see Fig. 1 ). In such a substation, the various equipments like circuit breakers, bus-bars, isolators, load break switches, current transformers, voltage transformers earth- ing switches, etc. are housed in metal enclosed modules filled with SF6 gas as shown in Fig. 2 . Due to high dielectric strength of SF6 gas than air, the clearances required are smaller. Hence, the overall size of each equipment and the complete substation is reduced to about 10% of conventional air-insulated substations. Transportation of SF6 gas in circuit breaker shown in Fig. 3 is subjected to moving and stationary components. Although, the

* Corresponding author. Address: 402 Residency Apartments, Ashoknagar Bridge, Hyderabad 500 093, India. Tel.: +91 040 27641584; cell: 9849252948. E-mail addresses: (C. Srikanth), (C. Bhasker). URL: (C. Bhasker).

1 BE(final year) project work. Presently working as Programmer Trainee. Cognizant Technology Solutions India Private Limited, Madhapur, Hyderabad-500081, India.

2 Member, AIAA/USA, Life Member, EDAF/India.

0965-9978/$ - see front matter 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


reliability of gas-insulated system is high, any internal breakdown that occur invariably causes extensive damage and an outage of several days duration is needed to effect the repair and it has been reported [2] that the consequential losses are high. Because of the flow structure peculiar to blast waves and nozzle jet flows, low-density portions inevitably yields in high pressure gases such as SF6, especially, when it is subjected to multiple mov- ing and fixed objects. Immediately after the current interruption, a high voltage of alternating current is imposed to the breaker and there arises a possibility that regeneration of arc might affect its performance. The transient electric arc is described by the Na- vier–Stokes equations, Maxwell equations and radiation transport equations. Besides the numerical solution of these partial differen- tial equations, an exact knowledge of the material properties like gas density, thermal capacity, viscosity, thermal and electric con- ductivity are required. Even with the present available computer power, the research for understanding electro-fluid dynamics of quenching the arc is limited success. The arc in conventional gas-blast circuit breakers is merely a passive element to be quenched by a transonic gas flow of suffi- cient pressure. The latter is generated mechanically by rather sim- ple means, but uneconomically from the modern point of view. The arc in a self-blast circuit breaker is an active element controlling the breaker action in a complicated manner all the time from con- tact separation to extinction at one of the subsequent current-

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zeros. In order to understand flowing fluid behavior for arc extinc- tion with moving contacts, simulation through computational fluid

dynamics – CFD plays significant role [3] in design of circuit breakers.

plays significant role [3] in design of circuit breakers. Fig. 1. Electrical substation in power plant.

Fig. 1. Electrical substation in power plant.

breakers. Fig. 1. Electrical substation in power plant. Fig. 2. Circuit breakers and its internals in

Fig. 2. Circuit breakers and its internals in substation.

power plant. Fig. 2. Circuit breakers and its internals in substation. Fig. 3. Cross-sectional view of

Fig. 3. Cross-sectional view of circuit breaker.

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2. Problem description

The geometrical and physical modeling involved in circuit breakers are complex and requires multi-disciplinary approaches to account electro-fluid dynamics. When the working fluid is SF6, accurate description of flow properties are highly essential. The fluid medium present in the circuit breaker is compressible for which thermodynamic properties are very sensitive and any inac- curate input values for viscosity, thermal conductivity, specific heat, etc., will not yield meaningful results. In order to gain insights, the present paper examines typical puffer breaker based on labora- tory setup using air as flow medium detailed [4] for prediction of several field variables as a function of valve movement. In reality, the geometry is circular nature with multiple moving and station- ary objects and simulation process is difficult in generation of geometry, grid and convergence of fluid flow equations, To under- stand flow effects with the movement of valve element in stream wise direction, the typical geometry of puffer chamber is consid- ered and shown in the Fig. 4 . The model considered in this paper is of axi-symmetric puffer breaker, wherein gas flow enters from the duct joining to fixed electrode and leaves through exit duct at- tached rightside fixed electrode along with moving object. When, the currents are interrupted, the valve element begins to move from left to right. Then, the fluid in the puffer chamber is compressed be- cause of reducing volume between the walls of fixed electrodes.

3. Computational grid

One of the essential pre-requisite is to generate quality compu- tational grid for the geometry, which takes three-fourths of the time of any CFD project. Several commercial grid generators like ICEM, Gridgen, Gridpro, HyperMesh are used to generate the tetra- hedral/polyhedral, structured multi-block hexagonal grids and can be exported to CFD solvers along with boundary regions. Altair HyperMesh is the best choice for generation of quality structured grids and its usage in CFD solver through user friendly. Advanced functionality within HyperMesh allows users to effi- ciently mesh high fidelity models. This functionality includes user defined quality criteria and controls, morphing technology to up- date existing meshes to new design proposals, and automatic mid-surface generation for complex designs with varying wall thicknesses. Automated tetra-meshing and hexa-meshing mini- mizes meshing time, while batch meshing enables large scale meshing of parts with no model clean up and minimal user input. HyperMesh presents users with a sophisticated suite of easy-to- use tools to build and edit models. For 2D and 3D model creation, users have access to a variety of mesh generation panels besides HyperMesh’s powerful automeshing module.

The surface automeshing module in HyperMesh is a robust tool for mesh generation that provides users the ability to interactively adjust a variety of mesh parameters for each surface or surface edge. These parameters include element density, element biasing, mesh algorithm and more. Element generation can be automati- cally optimized for a set of quality criteria. HyperMesh can also quickly automesh a closed volume with high-quality first or second order tetrahedral elements. The geometry of puffer chamber has been extracted from the published literature and created plan view of the model with the number of 2D blocks. The geometry has been extruded for arbitrary thickness to obtain the three dimensional volume. Using 3D solid mesh options, volume planes with uniform grid points has been se- lected to generate the three dimensional computational mesh. After repeating this process for all other volumes and removal of duplicate elements at mating surface three dimensional grid for considered geometry comprises 57,096 nodes and 51,250 elements has been imported to flow solver. The computational grid for the puffer chamber with the valve opening and closed states are shown in the Fig. 5 a and b. In these grids, legend red 3 color surface indicates the moving contact. The green color surface area represents inlet to puffer chamber. The or- ange color surface describes the exit location. The blue color surface on front and back shows wall surface between fixed electrodes and moving contact. The rest of the colored surfaces are treated as de- fault domain.

4. Mathematical formulation for moving grid

The governing equations for prediction of compressible Navier– Stokes equations are detailed in [5–11]. The standard formulation of the conservation of the variable for a volume V with moving boundaries is




U dV þ Z Uð u j v j Þ dA j

ð 1Þ

where u j , v j is the velocity of the moving boundary element d A j . A straightforward first order time discretisation of the equation is as follows:

ðU n þ1 V nþ1 U n V n Þ þ Dt With the definition
ðU n þ1 V nþ1 U n V n Þ
With the definition
U ¼
Z U dV

X ½ U ip ðu j v j Þ n þ1




; ip







The goal is to formulate the equations in a way that they can be dis- cretised consistently with a standard finite volume formulation. The conservation equation can be re-written as

Z exit o ot

U dV þ Z Uð uÞ j dA j Z ðU UÞ v j d A j Z Uv j dA j ¼ 0 ð 4Þ

inlet The variations U is constant when integrated over the surface of the control volume.
The variations U is constant when integrated over the surface of the
control volume. This means
Uv j ¼ U Z v j d A j ¼ UV
ð 5Þ
Fixed electrode
Moving element
It may be noted that due to elimination of time derivative, change in
the time derivative and volume change from the surface extension
are balanced analytically. The conservation equation therefore be
re-written as

Fig. 4. Geometry of puffer breaker.

3 For interpretation of color in Fig. 5, the reader is referred to the web version of this article.

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/ Advances in Engineering Software 40 (2009) 193–201 Fig. 5. (a) Computational grid in valve open

Fig. 5. (a) Computational grid in valve open condition. (b) Computational grid in valve closed condition.

UV þ Z Uð u j v j Þ dA j þ Z Uv j dA j ¼ 0

ð 6Þ

The Eq. (6) is exact, as only trivial manipulations and average con- cepts have been introduced in the derivation. The conservation with moving mesh option can therefore be written as the standard equa- tion plus a term due to the mesh movement. The surface integral including grid velocities are discretised as


ð U UÞv j d A j ¼ X ½ð U UÞ v j ip DA j ; ip

ð 7Þ

D A j ,ip is the volume swept by the integration point face. The vol- ume change from the time derivative and the volume change from the surface integral is implemented consistently through CEL script. Further details concerned to computational algorithm and implementation in software are outlined in [12–15].

4.1. CFD solver

CFD solver used in this paper to compute Navier–Stokes equa- tions are based on finite volume technique. As a finite volume method, it satisfies global conservation by enforcing local conser- vation over control volumes that are constructed around each mesh vertex or node. Advection fluxes are evaluated using a high-resolution scheme that essentially, second order accurate and bounded. For transient flows, an implicit second order accurate time differencing scheme is used. This technology is available in a single solver that covers all supported physical models. In the applications of puffer circuit breakers, accurate results are realizable by simply repositioning existing mesh points. In the ANSYS-CFX product, this is accomplished in two ways; by spec- ifying the motion of points on particular mesh regions or by explic- itly specifying the positions of all points in the mesh. If the motion of particular two and three dimensional mesh regions are known, they can be specified as displacements relative to the initial mesh or as absolute locations (which may be relative to the previous mesh). This motion may depend upon space, time or any other solution variable that is accessible through the CFX Expression Language (CEL) or FORTRAN-based user-CEL calls. ANSYS-CFX software then solves a displacement diffusion equa- tion to determine the mesh displacements throughout the remain- ing volume of the mesh. Contrary to point-iterative spring- analogy-based methods, this approach takes advantage of the com- putational efficiency of the ANSYS-CFX multigrid solver and auto- matically preserves features of the mesh, such as inflated boundary layers. The ability to vary the mesh stiffness (that is, the diffusivity for the mesh displacement equation) provides addi-

tional control over the resulting mesh distribution. Locally increas- ing mesh stiffness, for example, is a particularly useful approach to avoid mesh folding in regions of large deformation. The ability to specify the positions of all points in the mesh is offered through junction box routine calls to user FORTRAN code. In applications that involve extreme deformations, a topologically valid mesh can- not be maintained by mesh repositioning only. In these cases, local or global re-meshing is required and the existing solution can be interpolated to the updated mesh using tools provided with the ANSYS-CFX product.

5. Boundary conditions

After importing the grid in Ansys pre-processor, simulation type has been selected as unsteady with the initial and final time step values, based on which moving contact displacement is subjected from open to closed position in puffer chamber. The other important step is to create the domain with the assignment of fluid type and its properties – compressible fluid, i.e., ideal air, thermally treated as total energy, turbulence is ac- counted through high Reynolds number k e with standard wall functions. Air flow with specified component velocities are enter- ing the inlet chamber and after taking different turns leave through exit location, where atmosphere pressure is prescribed. The refer- ence pressure of fluid is defined in the simulation as 101,325 Pa. Connected surfaces of moving element under mesh motion is de- fined as unspecified in the wall boundary conditions. In a separate wall boundary condition, the displacement of moving element is prescribed in stream wise direction. The inputs for wall boundary conditions of moving wall are specified in Table 1 through CEL.

5.1. Convergence

Segregated solvers employ a solution strategy, where the momentum equations are first solved, using a guessed pressure, and an equation for a pressure correction is obtained. Because of the guess-and-correct nature of the linear system, a large number of iterations are typically required in addition to the need for judi- ciously selecting relaxation parameters for the variables. ANSYS- CFX uses a coupled solver, which solves the fluid flow equations (for u , v , w , p ) as a single system. This solution approach uses a fully implicit discretisation of the equations at any given time step. For steady state problems the time step behaves like an acceleration parameter, to guide the approximate solutions in a physically based manner to a steady state solution. This reduces the number of iter- ations required for convergence to a steady state, or to calculate

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Table 1 CEL script for moving grid in CFD simulation




Boundary Type = WALL

tStep = .1 [s]

Location = MW1

pvel = 40. [m sˆ -1] BOUNDARY CONDITIONS:

dsqr = pvel*tStep


dsqr1 = ave(Total Mesh Displacement x)@ sqr dsqrn = dsqr1+dsqr tTotal = 2.1 [s] END


Option = Adiabatic

Displacement X Component = dsqrn Displacement Y Component = 0 [m] Displacement Z Component = 0 [m] Option = Specified Displacement END

the solution for each time step in a time dependent analysis. At any stage of a calculation, each equation will not be satisfied exactly, and the residual of an equation identifies by how much the left- hand-side of the equation differs from the right-hand-side at any point in space. If the solution is exact then the residuals are zero. Exact means that each of the relevant finite volume equations are satisfied precisely. However, since these equations only model the physics approximately, this does not mean that the solution exactly matches, what happens in reality. If a solution is converg- ing, residuals should decrease with successive time steps. Mathe- matically, convergence rate in simple form can be defined by

Convergence rate ¼ R 1






where R n is the normalised log residual at time step n , and R n 1 is the normalised log residual at time step n 1. It should be possible to obtain a value of 0.95 or smaller for most situations. The time

step iteration is controlled by the physical time step (global) or local time step factor (local) setting to advance the solution in time for a steady state simulation. A first indication of the convergence of the solution to steady state is the reduction in the residuals. Experience shows, however, that different types of flows require different levels of residual reduction. For example, it is found regularly that swirling flows can exhibit significant changes even if the residuals are reduced by more than 5–6 orders of magnitude. Other flows are well con- verged with a reduction of only 3–4 orders. In addition to the resid- ual reduction, it is therefore required to monitor the solution during convergence and to plot the pre-defined target quantities of the simulation as a function of the residual (or the iteration number). A visual observation of the solution at different levels of convergence are recommended. When fluid-domain involves movement of internal objects, transient flow simulations are highly dependent on grid quality and skew angles between mesh points. The mesh quality check is to enforce positive control volumes in the grid. This check is per- formed at the beginning of every global iteration step and the tech- nique works well for wide range of applications with reasonable deformations/time step sizes. If the grid quality is below a certain level, i.e., skew angle becomes very small, the associated mesh points becomes highly distorted and solver fails. However, this technique will have the limitations, if the computational mesh in- volves multi-domain and solver inevitably fails due to lack of remeshing algorithm due to distortion of mesh points. Full transient file has been created using the upwind discretisa- tion scheme with second order backward Euler algorithm. The valve movement will take about 21 times from its initial state to reach closed position based on the inputs of moving contact veloc- ity, tStep, tTotal and mesh motion of object in specified direction. For each valve displacement, flow, turbulence and energy equa-

For each valve displacement, flow, turbulence and energy equa- Fig. 6. Residuals behavior in transient flow

Fig. 6. Residuals behavior in transient flow simulation.

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tions iterates in several time steps till the residuals are reaches to the order 1e 04. As the valve element moves to next incremental distance towards closure state, with the results available at previ- ous step, flow equations are reiterated for the stretched grid points. This will continue, till the valve movement is reached to almost closed position (see Fig. 6 ). The residual history for flow turbulence and energy equations are shown in Fig. 7 wherein each peak corresponds one global time step. Within each global time step, flow, turbulence, energy equations marches on all grid points through couple solver in 10 local time steps till the root mean square residual values reaches to the order 1e 04. As global time increases, valve element moves towards closed state, computational mesh automatically adjusts to the chan- ged geometry and checks grid skew for linear solver. The residual er- rors within inner time step iterations, which uses previously calculated field variables, rapidly drops in fewer iterations. Depend- ing upon tTotal and moving body velocity as a product of tStep, con- verged simulation results are stored in transient file folder.

5.2. Judging convergence

In many cases, global quantities will stabilize within 20 to 30 time steps, but convergence will not be achieved until approxi-

steps, but convergence will not be achieved until approxi- Fig. 7. (a) t = 0.3 s.

Fig. 7. (a) t = 0.3 s. (b) t = 1.0 s. (c) t = 2.1 s.

mately 100 time steps are completed. For most applications, con- vergence should be achieved (or well on its way) within 200 time steps. If the problems with convergence are encountered, it is required to find the source of the problem rather than taking the results as they are. There are many factors that may lead to poor convergence, including poor mesh quality, improper boundary condition selec- tion and time step selection to name a few. When there problems with convergence, it is required to determine whether the problem is local or global. Compare the (root mean square) RMS and (max- imum) MAX residuals of the equations having difficulty. If the MAX residual is more than one order of magnitude larger than your RMS residual, it usually indicates that the problem is concentrated to a local region. If it is a locally high residual, identifying the location of the MAX residual will help in diagnosing the problem. Typically the location of the MAX residual of the momentum equations is the most useful to identify. When the linear solver fails, it can mean

useful to identify. When the linear solver fails, it can mean Fig. 8. (a) t =

Fig. 8. (a) t = 0.3 s. (b) t = 1.0 s. (c) t = 2.1 s.

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/ Advances in Engineering Software 40 (2009) 193–201 199 Fig. 9. (a) t = 0.3 s.

Fig. 9. (a) t = 0.3 s. (b) t = 0.6 s.


t = 0.8 s. (d) t = 1.0 s. (e) t = 2.0 s. (f) t = 2.1 s.

that non-physical boundary conditions have been applied, or that the initial values were inappropriately set. In simulations that involve mesh deformations of internal ob- jects in the domain, extra care is required to ensure that mass, momentum and energy are conserved. This is generally not possi- ble, when points are dynamically added and removed from the mesh. ANSYS-CFX software employs an advanced mesh movement or mesh morphing model to reduce the need for remeshing and, hence, increase the accuracy of the prediction. There are situations that mesh movement in ANSYS-CFX solver fails during mesh morp- hing due to distortion of grid.

6. Results and discussion

After convergence, ANSYS-CFX writes .gtm, .def, .cfx and .out files in the working directory. In case of transient flow simulation, a separate directory generates, in which grid files are stored for each global time. The field variables such as velocity vectors, mach number, velocity magnitude, pressure are available for all grid

points in the computational domain for visualisation and interpre- tation through contour plots, velocity vectors and streamlines. The velocity vectors from inlet to exit location of puffer cham- ber at the mid plane of puffer chamber are shown in Fig. 7 a–c. When the valve is fully open, the flow from inlet to the exit exhib- its high velocity in the region of fixed electrodes. As valve is 50% open, the air flow distribution tend form swirl motion with consid- erable velocity magnitudes between fixed electrode region. Indica- tions of flow recirculation between fixed electrodes and at certain places in exit duct becomes stronger, when the moving contact is reaching closed position. The Mach number distribution at corre- sponding times in the middle plane of computational domain is de- scribed in Fig. 8 a–c. It is observed from these plots, that the flow is subsonic and highest Mach number indicates at exit location when valve is in opening condition. As valve element moves towards closed state, highest Mach number shifts to the fixed electrodes re- gion where velocity magnitude highest. The variation of Mach number is found to increase with the displacement of moving con- tact in the puffer chamber.

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/ Advances in Engineering Software 40 (2009) 193–201 Fig. 10. (a) t = 0.3 s. (b)

Fig. 10. (a) t = 0.3 s. (b) t = 0.6 s. (c) t = 0.8 s. (d) t = 1.0 s. (e) t = 1.0 s. (f) t = 1.0 s.

To substantiate velocity vectors and Mach number pattern in the puffer chamber, velocity pattern is detailed for different times in Fig. 9 a–f. Due to steps and curvature in puffer chamber geome- try, the velocity distribution exhibits irregular, increases between fixed electrodes and drops rapidly in the exit duct. The behavior of flow pattern indicates the swirl flow with turbulent eddies not only in the area of fixed electrodes but also occurs in the exit duct. It is also noticed that due to displacement of moving contact, area between fixed electrodes is compressed and volume is reduced. Highest velocity which is taking place at this region increases with the volume reduction in fixed electrodes due to displacement of moving contact in the puffer chamber. Static pressure distribution for the corresponding times at the middle plane of computational domain of puffer chamber is shown in Fig. 10 a–f. High pressure in puffer chamber in the neighborhood of moving contact increases with the displacement of valve to- wards closed position. Pressure contours in the puffer chamber plane are highly fluctuating and forms the low pressure zone be- tween fixed electrodes. This low pressure expands over volume be- tween fixed electrodes becomes smaller incrementally. The flow parametric database generated for typical puffer chamber with

moving contact through CFD provides several insights for under- standing to quench the arcs due to fault currents.

7. Conclusions

Compressible air flow simulation in a typical puffer type cham- ber comprises fixed electrodes, moving contact, inlet and exit loca- tions are carried out using CFD techniques. The velocity vectors in the middle plane of puffer chamber indicates swirl flow with tur- bulent eddies over the displacement of moving contact towards closed position. Indications of swirl flow between fixed electrodes and at exit duct becomes stronger with the displacement of mov- ing contact. Static pressure contours in the middle plane of puffer chamber are highly fluctuating and forms the low pressure region between fixed electrodes, which however increases with the valve movement towards closed state. The variations in pressure history are significantly affected by the velocity of moving contact in the puffer chamber. The CFD study carried out for prediction of several flow characteristics provides valuable insights for quenching the arcs in circuit breakers.

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