Last Updated:  8/9/2013


Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

School of Engineering & Applied Science

University of Virginia


MAE 4120 – Air Breathing Propulsion – Fall 2013



Instructor:      R.J. Ribando, Assoc. Prof. Emeritus

                        Office: 310 MEC

                        Phone:  924-6289

                        Office hours:   When door open

                        e-mail:  rjr at Virginia dot edu


Course:           This course is intended mainly for 4th year aerospace and mechanical engineers.  In 4120 we apply fundamental principles of thermodynamics and fluid mechanics to gas turbines, with emphasis on aerospace propulsion, but also including “aero-derivative” stationary power generation equipment.  We will review fluid mechanics, compressible gas dynamics and thermodynamics as we solve gas turbine and turbomachinery problems.  We begin by discussing the gas power cycles as introduced in thermodynamics class.  Then we proceed to individual components of gas turbines, including turbomachines, and analyze them separately.  Finally the separate components will be integrated so that an entire system is analyzed.  Lectures will amplify major points of the reading assignments as well as introduce complementary material.   In addition you will gain much facility in the use of Excel, Visual Basic for Applications (Excel’s embedded programming language) and the visual presentation of quantitative results. 


Text:               Flack, R.D., Fundamentals of Jet Propulsion with Applications, Cambridge University Press, 2005.  ISBN 0-521-81983-0

                        (Note:  A paperback edition of this book is available through the bookstore.)


Reference:     Moran, M.J. and Shapiro, H.N., Fundamental of Engineering Thermodynamics, 6th Ed., Wiley, 2008 (or equivalent).

                        Fox, McDonald, and Pritchard, Introduction to Fluid Mechanics, 6th Ed., 2006 (or equivalent).                     


Class Meetings: MW 9:30 – 10:50, MEC 215.   You will be expected to attend all classes, since you will be working on assignments and projects in class.   (It is being held in a “hands-on” computer classroom.)  If you are a chronically disengaged student who does not attend class regularly, please do not sign up for this course.


I.T. Requirements:  Since we will be meeting in one of the ITS classrooms (MEC 215, which has had a few computer upgrades since this VR tour) and will, when appropriate, be using the computers, plan on having an active Collab account, Home Directory account (or other means to save work from class), Eservices account and Hive account.  


                        We will be using Excel and its macro programming language (Visual Basic for Applications, VBA) a lot in this course.   


                        You will also want to have a Hive account.  The Hive allows Mac and Unix users to use VBA and it also has on it the TFProps Excel add-in for fluid properties.  TFprops is currently only useable in Excel 2003 and there is an installation of it on the Hive. 


Tests:              Two tests are scheduled during the semester and will be representative of the homework assignments and in-class projects.  These tests are to be pledged and will be open book and notes.  In some cases you will be permitted to use the spreadsheets that you personally have developed during the course or which the instructor provided to you. Solutions will be posted after the tests.  The final exam will also be open book/notes and comprehensive.  Several short, possibly Collab-administered, quizzes may also be given.


Homework:     Approximately ten unpledged homework assignments will be assigned and collected during the semester.  Many of these will be started in class and finished outside.  These problem sets are intended to develop problem-solving techniques and to help students get the feel of the magnitudes of the different parameters.  Usually about one week will be given for the completion of a problem set or project.  One or two team mini-design projects are planned.  Solutions to homework and selected other problems will be posted.  Homework assignments should adhere to the following guidelines:


1.   Spreadsheets are to be well-documented.   You (and I) should be able to go back to them a month later and figure out what you did!   This includes units, procedures, etc. 

2.   Spreadsheets will be submitted electronically through Collab. 

3.   The user should be able to change any of the input parameters and have the effects propagate through the entire calculation properly.

4.  Graphical presentation is required in all cases.  If in doubt, ask!

5.  The name you give to your spreadsheet should indicate what it is for and its author, e.g., BraytonCycle_ParisHilton.xls.

6.  Check which version of Excel is appropriate for assignments.  At least one assignment will have to be done in Excel 2003 (which is available on the Hive).  A couple must be done in Excel 2007 or 2010.

7.  You should change spreadsheet properties as appropriate, e.g., to make yourself the author. 

8.  You must be sure that your spreadsheet is completely independent of any other spreadsheets when you turn it in.  This is especially important when you are putting together a comprehensive team project at the end.


Grading:         We will not have a grader, so grading of home works may at times be cursory.  You are certainly welcome to drop by and discuss any problems with which you have difficulty and in many cases we will be working on them together in class.   I will be grading exams and the final thoroughly myself. 


Grades:           The final grade will be determined as follows:

                                    Homework/quizzes:      25

                        Tests:                           40

                                    Final Exam:                   30

                                    Class Participation:         5 (Includes attendance)


Prerequisite Skills for 4120


ABET Objectives  


Some Propulsion Topics to Think About and Discuss


Condensed Course Outline



Some Software:


Otto Cycle – Spark-Ignition, Internal Combustion Engine (Excel template)


            Diesel Cycle – Compression-Ignition, Internal Combustion Engine (Excel template)


            Rankine Cycle – Steam Power Cycle (Excel template)


            Brayton Cycle – Cold Air Standard Gas Turbine Cycle (Excel template)


One-dimensional, Compressible Flow Functions (Excel spreadsheet with VBA macros)


Oblique Shocks – Excel spreadsheet using VBA and Excel Solver


            1976 U.S. Standard Atmosphere (Excel spreadsheet with VBA macros)


Weekly Schedule