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ENLIGHTENING THERMODYNAMIC CONCEPTS IN THE LAB VIA HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE: THE CASE OF A HEAT PUMP CYCLE

On adapting to the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) whose essential parameters were established in the Bologna Declaration, new teaching techniques and strategies need to be adopted. In this frame, we discuss here an experience carried out in the Laboratory of Thermodynamics of an Engineering School.
Students perform a two-hour laboratory practice in which they first put to work a real heat pump and measure several variables of the cycle. This is done with a standard lab equipment, in which students can easily identify the throttle valve, compressor, evaporator and condenser. Then, they simulate the performance of the machine with a computer program that calculates thermodynamic properties, and they compare the results of the simulation with the real cycle they have seen before. The software, Ciclograf, has been developed specially for this purpose by the teachers of Thermodynamics who belong to the Educative Innovation Group “Thermodynamics Applied to Industrial Engineering” (TAII) of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM).
In this way, it is expected that students will get better insight in the meaning of the thermodynamic balances and a clearer understanding of real cycles.
Finally, a satisfaction survey is passed to the students. The answers are clearly positive.
From the teacher point of view, the practical session doesn’t consume too many resources, as it takes two teacher-hours per each 12 students, and just six computers and a laboratory heat pump (or similar equipment).