January 3rd, 2018
Shortly after I graduated with my engineering degree I worked as a power plant engineer at an electric utility. One day I was walking through the plant and heard a loud racket coming from the *boiler feel pumps*. These are the massive centrifugal pumps that deliver pressurized water to the boiler. The water is transformed into steam to drive steam turbines and spin electrical generators, which ultimately results in electrical power. The noise was so loud, it sounded like rocks were being ground up. I asked a coworker what was going on, and he replied matter-of-factly, “The *pumps *are *cavitating.*”
__Boiler Feed Pumps Experience Cavitation__
So what exactly is cavitation? We’ll find out next time when we explore the mechanics of this noisy phenomenon as it applies to boiler feed pumps and other centrifugal pumps.
opyright 2017 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE
Engineering Expert Witness Blog
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Tags: boiler, boiler feed pumps, cavitation, centrifugal pump, electric utility, electrical generator, engineering, power plant, steam turbine

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December 28th, 2017
The New Year is upon us, which makes me think about time travel and H. G. Wells’ time machine, and that makes me think about flywheels. We’ve been talking about crankshafts and flywheels in our just-ended blog series, and when I look at this image of Wells’ famous time traveling device, I can’t help but wonder, *Do Time Machines Use Flywheels*? Happy New Year everyone!
__Do Time Machines Use Flywheels?__
opyright 2017 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE
Engineering Expert Witness Blog
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Tags: crankshafts, flywheels

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December 21st, 2017
Last time we had a look inside a marvelous piece of engineering machinery known as a crankshaft. It plays a key role in converting the reciprocating linear motion of a steam driven engine into the rotary motion required to power externally mounted devices that are attached to it. Today we’ll finish up our blog series on flywheels when we see how using one in conjunction with a crankshaft facilitates a more even transmission of energy. *Reciprocating engines* *maximize efficiency when they employ flywheels.*
We learned that the energy in the steam supply decreases as the piston moves in its cylinder, which means a concurrent decrease in the engine’s horsepower and its ability to power machinery. Without an intervening action, the reciprocating steam engine would stall. Now, let’s see how adding a flywheel to the crankshaft can solve the problem.
__Reciprocating Engines Maximize Efficiency When They Employ Flywheels__
As we’ve learned before, a flywheel stores up kinetic energy while the engine powering it is performing at full horsepower, but if that power should drop off or cease to be produced, the flywheel gives up the kinetic energy stored inside it so as to keep externally mounted machinery operating until that stored energy is exhausted. This is all made possible because flywheels are designed to have moments of inertia sufficient to positively contribute to its storage of kinetic energy. This inertia is a numerical representation of the flywheel’s resistance to change in motion. Please review our past blog on the subject to refresh your memory.
The overall effect is that while the engine is operating, there’s an even flow of energy between the engine and flywheel and horsepower is supplied to keep machinery mounted to the crankshaft operating. Any diminishment in the power supplied will be compensated for by the flywheel’s stored kinetic energy.
Next time we’ll introduce a new topic, a phenomenon known as cavitation.
opyright 2017 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE
Engineering Expert Witness Blog
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Tags: crankshaft, efficiency, engineering, flywheel, horsepower, kinetic energy, moment of inertia, reciprocating steam engine

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December 15th, 2017
Last time, we learned that a *crankshaft* is an engineering device which converts the reciprocating linear *motion* of an engine’s back-and-forth moving piston into the rotary motion that powers externally attached machinery. Its movement is shown here,
__A Crankshaft in Motion__
We’ll see how a *crankshaft* and piston’s *motion* benefits by the use of a *flywheel* next time.
opyright 2017 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE
Engineering Expert Witness Blog
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Tags: crankshaft, cylinder, engine, engineering, flywheel, machinery, piston, reciprocating linear motion, rotary motion

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December 6th, 2017
Last time we developed an engineering formula to calculate the *horsepower* required to accelerate a *flywheel* by way of a *reciprocating steam engine, *which contributes to the storage of kinetic energy inside a flywheel. Today we’ll gain a clearer understanding of how this works when we take *a look inside a reciprocating steam engine.*
__A Look Inside a Reciprocating Steam Engine__
A *reciprocating steam engine* performs the work of transforming steam’s heat energy into the mechanical energy needed to move a piston contained within a cylinder. During a complete operating cycle this piston travels from one end of the cylinder to the other, then back again. This is made possible because during the first half of the cycle pressurized steam enters one end of the cylinder and expands inside it, forcing the piston to move.
This process inside the cylinder results in movement of a piston that’s attached to a piston rod, which in turn is connected to a crankshaft via a connecting rod and crank rod. The crankshaft is a device which converts the reciprocating linear motion of an engine’s piston into rotary motion and in so doing facilitates the powering of any externally mounted rotating machinery attached to it. So long as there’s ample steam to power the internal piston, over time, energy in the form of horsepower will be available to externally mounted devices. The energy in the steam decreases as the steam expands behind the moving piston. So, the engine’s horsepower, will decrease as the piston travels to the end of the cylinder. If the energy in the steam should become depleted, the *reciprocating steam engine *will stall. The engine will no longer be able to perform work.
Next time we’ll see how a crankshaft works when we take a look inside it.
opyright 2017 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE
Engineering Expert Witness Blog
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Tags: connecting rod, crank rod, crankshaft, energy, engineering, flywheel, kinetic energy, piston rod, power, reciprocating steam engine, work

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November 24th, 2017
Last time we discussed how torque is created as a *flywheel* spins. This *torque* is a factor of the *flywheel’s* moment of inertia, which is dependent on how far the masses of the flywheel’s parts are located from its center of rotation. Today we’ll present a formula to compute how much *horsepower is required to accelerate a flywheel*. And here it is,
__Horsepower Required to Accelerate a Flywheel__
where, *T* is the torque created on the flywheel’s shaft in units of inch-pounds. The term *n* is the flywheel shaft’s speed of rotation in revolutions per minute, *RPM*. *Horsepower, **HP,* is engineering shorthand for a unit of power equal to 6600 inch-pounds per second, and the number 63,025 is a constant needed to convert *torque,* *T,* and the spinning shaft’s rotations per minute, *RPM*, into *horsepower* units.
Torque is present whether the *flywheel’s* spin accelerates or decelerates. During acceleration torque is created, which contributes to the production of kinetic energy that’s stored inside the flywheel. When a flywheel’s spin decelerates, its *mass *experiences the effects of negative acceleration, and stored kinetic energy is released.
As we learned awhile back, horsepower is a function of torque in any moving machinery, including engines and flywheels. An engine must produce *horsepower to accelerate a flywheel* connected to its shaft. By the same token, when the engine’s horsepower output diminishes or stops, the flywheel begins to decelerate. This deceleration causes kinetic energy stored within the flywheel to be released, providing horsepower necessary to keep the engine and flywheel spinning. That is, until the power output of the engine returns or the stored kinetic energy of the flywheel is ultimately exhausted.
We’ll see how that works next time when we take a look inside a reciprocating engine.
opyright 2017 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE
Engineering Expert Witness Blog
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Tags: acceleration, deceleration, engine, engineering, flywheel, horsepower, kinetic energy, mass, moment of inertia, torque

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November 13th, 2017
Last time we began our discussion on moment of inertia and how it affects a *flywheel’s* storage of kinetic energy. That inertia is a function of the *flywheel’s* *mass,* in particular how the *mass *is *distributed*. Today we’ll continue our discussion and see how an engineering principal known as *torque* affects things.
__Flywheel Torque and Distribution of Mass__
We learned in a previous blog that *torque* is most simply defined as a measure of how much force acts upon an object to cause it to rotate around a pivot point or center of rotation, shown as a small black dot in the illustration. For our discussion we’ll focus on two parts of the *flywheel,* the hub, part *A*, and the rim, part *E*.
Part *A* has a mass *m*_{A} located a distance *r*_{A} from the flywheel’s center, while part *E* has a mass *m*_{E} located a distance *r*_{E} from it. When an engine applies mechanical power to the flywheel by way of its rotating shaft, the revolutions per minute, RPM, increase and along with it the angular velocity, ω, also increases. For a refresher on this, follow the link.
Because of this relationship, we can calculate the kinetic energy contained within a flywheel using the kinetic energy formula,
*KE =* ½ × ∑[*m × **r*^{2}] × ω^{2} (1)
As the flywheel’s angular velocity increases or decreases in response to the engine’s energy output, parts *A* and *E* reflect acceleration or deceleration of *a*_{A} and *a*_{E}. Since parts *A* and *E* exhibit both mass and acceleration, they are subject to *Newton’s Second Law of Motion*, which states that force equals mass times acceleration. Using that relationship we can calculate the force exerted on each part by,
*F*_{A} = m_{A} ×* a*_{A} (2)
*F*_{E} = m_{E} ×* a*_{E} (3)
Part *A* is small compared to part *E*, therefore *m*_{E} is greater than *m*_{A} and accordingly *F*_{E} is greater than *F*_{A}. Forces *F*_{A} and *F*_{E} act as torques, because they cause parts *A* and *E* to rotate around the flywheel’s center of rotation, so they are designated as Torque *A*, *T*_{A, }and Torque *E*, *T*_{E. } These torques are computed by,
*T*_{A} = F_{A} ×* r*_{A} (4)
*T*_{E} = F_{E} ×* r*_{E} (5)
Part *E*’s greater mass will contribute more torque than part *A*, and it will also contribute more to the flywheel’s kinetic energy content.
Most flywheels are designed with heavy rims supported by small hubs and slender spokes, because the more mass that’s distributed away from the flywheel’s center of rotation, the greater the flywheel’s moment of inertia and torque, and the more kinetic energy it can store.
Next time we’ll develop an equation which allows us to quantify the horsepower required to accelerate a flywheel.
opyright 2017 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE
Engineering Expert Witness Blog
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Tags: distribution of mass, engineering, flywheel, kinetic energy, mass, moment of inertia, torque

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November 6th, 2017
Last time we arrived at a general formula to compute the *kinetic energy*, KE, contained within the totality of a spinning* flywheel* made up of numerous parts. Today we’ll discuss the terms in that formula, which encompasses a phenomenon of *flywheels *known as *moment of inertia*.
__Moment of Inertia in a Flywheel__
The kinetic energy formula we’ve been working with is, again,
*KE =* ½ × Σ[*m × **r*^{2}] × *ω*^{2} (1)
The bracketed part of this equation makes reference to spinning *flywheels* comprised of one or more parts, and that’s what we’ll be focusing on today. The symbol Σ is the Greek letter sigma, standard engineering shorthand notation used to represent the sum of all terms and mathematical operations contained within the brackets.
Our illustration shows we have five parts to consider: a hub, three spokes and a rim, and label them *A*, *B*, *C*, *D*, and *E* respectively. Each part has its own mass, *m,* and is a unique distance, *r,* from the *flywheel’s *center of rotation. The *flywheel’s* angular velocity is represented by ω.
For our *flywheel* of parts *A* through *E *our expanded equation becomes,
Σ[*m × **r*^{2}] = [*m*_{A} × *r*_{A}^{2}] + [*m*_{B} × *r*_{B}^{2}] + [*m*_{C} × *r*_{C}^{2}] + [*m*_{D} × *r*_{D}^{2}] + [*m*_{E} × *r*_{E}^{2}] (2)
Equation (2) represents the sum total of *moments of inertia* contained within our *flywheel.* It’s a numerical representation of the flywheel’s degree of resistance to changes in motion.
The more mass a *flywheel* has, the greater its *moment of inertia.* When at rest this greater moment of inertia means it will take more effort to return it to motion. But once in motion the flywheel’s greater moment of inertia will make it harder to stop. That’s because there’s a lot of *kinetic energy *stored within its spinning mass, and the heavier a flywheel is, the more kinetic energy it contains. In fact, for any given angular velocity *ω*, a large and heavy flywheel stores more kinetic energy than a smaller, lighter flywheel.
But there’s more to a flywheel’s *moment of inertia* than just mass. What’s really important is how that mass is distributed. We’ll get into that next time when we discuss torque.
Copyright 2017 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE
Engineering Expert Witness Blog
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Tags: angular velocity, center of rotation, engineering, flywheel, kinetic energy storage, mass, moment of inertia, spinning flywheel

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October 26th, 2017
Last time we introduced the fact that spinning flywheels are subject to both linear and angular velocities, along with a formula that allows us to calculate these quantities for a single part of the flywheel, designated *A*. We also re-visited the *kinetic energy* formula. Today we’ll build upon those formulas as we attempt to answer the question, *How much kinetic energy is contained within a spinning flywheel?*
Here again is the basic *kinetic energy* formula,
*KE =* ½ × *m × **v*^{2} (1)
where, *m* equals a moving object’s mass and *v* is its linear velocity.
Here again is the formula used to calculate linear and angular velocities for a single part *A* within the flywheel, where part __A__’s linear velocity is designated *v*_{A}, angular velocity by *ω*, and where *r*_{A} is the distance of part *A* from the flywheel’s center of rotation.
*v*_{A} = r_{A} × ω (2)
Working with these two formulas, we’ll insert equation (2) into equation (1) to obtain a *kinetic energy *formula which allows us to calculate the amount of energy contained in part *A* of the flywheel,
*KE*_{A} = ½ *×* *m*_{A} *×* (*r*_{A} × *ω*)^{2} (3)
which simplifies to,
*KE*_{A} = ½ *×* *m*_{A} *×* *r*_{A}^{2} *× **ω*^{2} (4)
Equation (4) is a great place to begin to calculate the amount of *kinetic energy contained within a spinning flywheel,* however it is just a beginning, because a flywheel contains many parts. Each of those parts has its own mass, *m,* and is a unique distance, *r,* from the flywheel’s center of rotation, and all these parts must be accounted for in order to arrive at a calculation for the total amount of *kinetic energy contained within a spinning flywheel*.
__How Much Kinetic Energy is Contained Within a Spinning Flywheel?__
Put another way, we must add together all the *m × **r*^{2} terms for each and every part of the entire flywheel. How many parts are we speaking of? Well, that depends on the type of flywheel. We’ll discuss that in detail later, after we define a phenomenon that influences the *kinetic energy of a flywheel* known as the moment of inertia.
For now, let’s just consider the flywheel’s parts in general terms. A general formula to compute the *kinetic energy contained* within the totality of a *spinning flywheel* is,
*KE =* ½ *×* ∑[*m × **r*^{2}] *×* *ω*^{2} (5)
We’ll discuss the significance of each of these variables next time when we arrive at a method to calculate the *kinetic energy contained* within all the many parts of a *spinning flywheel*
.
Copyright 2017 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE
Engineering Expert Witness Blog
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Tags: angular velocity, center of rotation, engineering, flywheel, kinetic energy, linear velocity, mass, moment of inertia

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October 19th, 2017
Anyone who has spun a potter’s wheel is appreciative of the smooth motion of the flywheel upon which they form their clay, for without it the bowl they’re forming would display irregularities such as unattractive bumps. The flywheel’s smooth action comes as a result of *kinetic energy*, the energy of motion, stored within it. We’ll take another step towards examining this phenomenon today when we take our first look at calculating this kinetic energy. To do so we’ll make reference to the *two types of velocity associated with a spinning flywheel,* *angular velocity *and linear velocity, both of which engineers must negotiate anytime they deal with rotating objects.
Let’s begin by referring back to the formula for calculating *kinetic energy*, *KE*. This formula applies to all objects moving in a linear fashion, that is to say, traveling a straight path. Here it is again,
*KE =* ½ × *m × **v*^{2}
where *m* is the moving object’s mass and *v* its linear velocity.
Flywheels rotate about a fixed point rather than move in a straight line, but determining the amount of kinetic *energy* *stored within a spinning flywheel* involves an examination of both its *angular velocity* and linear velocity. In fact, the amount of *kinetic energy *stored within it depends on how fast it rotates.
For our example we’ll consider a spinning flywheel, which is basically a solid disc. For our illustrative purposes we’ll divide this disc into hypothetical parts, each having a mass *m* located a distance *r* from the flywheel’s center of rotation. We’ll select a single part to examine and call that *A*.
__Two Types of Velocity Associated With a Spinning Flywheel__
Part *A* has a mass, *m*_{A}, and is located a distance *r*_{A} from the flywheel’s center of rotation. As the flywheel spins, part *A* rides along with it at an angular velocity, ω, following a circular path, shown in green. It also moves at a linear velocity, *v*_{A}, shown in red. *v*_{A} represents the linear velocity of part *A* measured at any point tangent to its circular path. This linear velocity would become evident if part *A* were to become disengaged from the flywheel and cast into the air, whereupon its trajectory would follow a straight line tangent to its circular path.
The linear and angular velocities of part *A* are related by the formula,
*v*_{A} = r_{A} × ω
Next time we’ll use this equation to modify the basic kinetic energy formula so that it’s placed into terms that relate to a flywheel’s *angular velocity*. This will allow us to define a phenomenon at play in the flywheel’s rotation, known as the moment of inertia.
Copyright 2017 – Philip J. O’Keefe, PE
Engineering Expert Witness Blog
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Tags: angular velocity, energy stored, engineering, flywheel, kinetic energy, linear velocity, mass, moment of inertia, spinning flywheel

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