Fluid Connectors

One area that Modelica has been widely used in is the modeling of various types of fluid systems. We saw in the previous section how to create connectors for various Simple Domains. But what makes Modelica so compelling for fluid systems is the ability to create more complex connectors involving multiple conserved quantities simultaneously. Such connectors are essential for modeling fluid systems, where a single connector might involve the flow of mass, momentum, energy and/or species. Such cases require the definition of rich connectors types.

We’ll start this section with a discussion of basic connectors very similar to the ones used for Simple Domains. But we will conclude with a connector that is fundamentally different from the previous examples because it describes a connector that involves the conservation of both mass and energy.

Incompressible Fluids

Modeling of incompressible fluids is very useful in a number of engineering applications, most notably hydraulically actuated systems. We’ll start by presenting a simple connector that can be used to model incompressible systems, but with some important caveats.

Consider the following connector definition:

  connector Incompressible
    Modelica.SIunits.Pressure p;
    flow Modelica.SIunits.VolumeFlowRate q;
  end Incompressible;

As we saw in our discussion of Simple Domains, we see the familiar pattern of an across variable and a through variable. In this case the across variable is p (the pressure) and the through variable is q (the volumetric flow rate). But this connector is different from all the previous examples because the flow variable is not the time derivative of a conserved quantity, since volume is not a conserved quantity.

This connector works as long as the fluid being modeled is incompressible. To understand why, consider the following equation:

q_1 + q_2 + q_3 + q_4 = 0

where q_1 , q_2 , q_3 and q_1 represent volumetric flow terms (i.e., each has units of m^3/s ). In general, this equation does not qualify as a conservation equation because volume is (again, in general) not conserved. However, if we know that each of these flows is an incompressible fluid, then we can multiply the entire equation by the density of that incompressible fluid, i.e.,

\rho q_1 + \rho q_2 + \rho q_3 + \rho q_4 = 0

Now each of these terms has units of kg/s which is a conservation equation because mass is a conserved quantity. However, if you use this connector definition with a fluid that has any significant degree of compressibility, you will get the wrong answer.

Such a connector definition is useful for relatively simple incompressible fluid flow networks because it can frequently describe the behavior of the system without having to specify (or know) the density of the working fluid. However, this kind of approach is inherently limiting so it should only be used in situations where it solves more problems than it creates.

Compressible Fluids

While the previous connector definition should be strictly used for Incompressible Fluids, the following connector is more general:

  connector GenericFluid
    Modelica.SIunits.Pressure p;
    flow Modelica.SIunits.MassFlowRate m_flow;
  end GenericFluid;

This connector can be used for both incompressible or compressible fluids. This is because it doesn’t make any inherent assumptions about the compressibility of the fluid. Note that the across variable, p, is still pressure, but the through variable, m_flow, is a mass flow rate. As such, the through variable conforms to the convention that a through variable should be the time derivative of a conserved quantity (in this case, mass). So there are no implicit assumptions in this connector, which is why it can be used to model fluid flow of both compressible and incompressible fluids.

This connector isn’t really fundamentally different from the connectors associated with Simple Domains, but it appears in this section because it is a stepping stone to the next example.

Thermo-Fluid Modeling

So far in this section, we’ve presented a connector for incompressible fluid systems, Incompressible, and a more general connector, GenericFluid. But in both of these cases, the only conserved quantity considered was mass. Nowhere in these previous connectors is there any reference to or allowance for modeling the temperature of the fluid.

There are many applications where the temperature of the working fluid is critical. In some cases, the temperature changes the density of the working fluid. In other cases, the temperature may trigger a phase change (e.g., from liquid to gas). Temperature can also affect other critical properties of the fluid like viscosity, which have a significant impact on the performance of, for example, lubrication systems. As a result, those previous connector definitions would be inadequate for modeling systems where the temperature of the working fluid had any significant impact on the system behavior.

To predict the temperature of a working fluid, it is necessary to track the energy that flows with the fluid as it flows through a network. To do this, the connector definition must be augmented to include energy, alongside mass, as a conserved quantity that flows through the connector. The following connector definition does just that:

  connector ThermoFluid
    Modelica.SIunits.Pressure p;
    flow Modelica.SIunits.MassFlowRate m_flow;
    Modelica.SIunits.Temperature T;
    flow Modelica.SIunits.HeatFlowRate q;
  end ThermoFluid;

Note that this connector includes two variables that have the flow qualifier, m_flow and q. These represent the flow of mass and energy, respectively. Each of these is paired with an across variable. One of those across variables is the pressure, p, just as we saw in the previous connectors in this section. The other across variable, T, is the temperature of the working fluid.