Enhancing the Teaching of Fluid Mechanics and Transport Phenomena Via Flowlab: A Computational Fluid Dynamics Tool


Introducing Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to engineering students at the undergraduate level has become more common in recent years, although there are significant barriers for doing so using a generalized CFD solver. A common constraint is the quantity of material to be covered in a fixed amount of time in a given course, which leaves little time left for learning the use of a generalized CFD package. With this consideration in mind, FlowLab (www.flowlab.fluent.com) was introduced by Fluent Inc. FlowLab may be described as a virtual fluids laboratory-a computer based analysis and visualization package. Using FlowLab, students solve predefined CFD exercises. These predefined exercises facilitate teaching and provide students with hands-on CFD experience. Through the design of each FlowLab exercise, students are introduced to engineering problems and concepts as well as CFD via a structured learning process. In the fall 2003 semester at Purdue University, FlowLab was used in CHE 540, a transport phenomena course offered within the School of Chemical Engineering. This course is open to advanced undergraduate engineering students and graduate students. Students were exposed to eight separate FlowLab exercises in this course. This paper gives a detailed summary of one of these specific exercises, developing flow in a pipe with and without heat transfer. The paper emphasizes how the use of CFD via FlowLab enhanced the teaching of specific concepts in transport phenomena as well as concepts in CFD such as creating a parametric geometry, discretizing the geometry, specifying boundary conditions, material properties and operating conditions, numerical solution techniques and post-processing. Experiences from this course are that FlowLab is a positive force for creating student interest and excitement in the area of fluid mechanics and transport phenomena. Using FlowLab's post-processing capabilities, students were able to visualize complex flow fields and make direct comparison to analytical theory and experimental correlation. In addition, FlowLab provided a structured learning experience which reinforced proper pedagogy for applying CFD to engineering problems. Upon completion of the course, a student survey was performed in CHE 540 focusing on FlowLab integration and usage, and survey responses are summarized in this paper.

Meeting Name

2004 ASME Heat Transfer/Fluids Engineering Summer Conference (2004: Jul. 11-15, Charlotte, NC)


Chemical and Biochemical Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Flowlab; Undergraduates; Engineering students

Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


File Type





© 2004 American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

15 Jul 2004

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