Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Frederick L. Hart, Department Head

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Paul P. Mathisen, Advisor




"This thesis presents a series of physical experiments and numerical simulations intended to determine whether the use of commercially available computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software may provide a viable alternative to the use of physical models for predicting the occurrence of vortices and swirl in pump intakes. The physical experiments were set up at Alden Research Laboratories, Inc. (ARL) of Holden, Massachusetts, using a simple pump intake model donated by ARL for use in this study. Swirl and velocity measurements and dye injections were used to characterize the flow in the physical model. Three flow conditions were chosen for the physical experiments because they demonstrated swirl and vortices developing at the pump intake. Once the physical experiments were performed, FIDAP, a general-purpose finite-element CFD package, was used to simulate the circulation patterns in the vicinity of a pump intake. The model configuration and scale were selected to simulate experimental conditions in the physical pump intake model. Some similarities were also identified in the locations of the models predicted vortex characteristics and the vortex characteristics that were observed in the experimental facility. However, the characteristics of swirl within the pump intake differed from experimental observations. Therefore, additional simulations were conducted to analyze the sensitivity of simulations to model assumptions. These additional simulations showed that the assumptions related to these model parameters have minor affects on the general nature of the predicted vortices, but do affect the predicted vortex strength. This thesis represents a first step in addressing the discrepancies between numerical and experimental results. Additional investigations are recommended to clarify the applicability of CFD to address pump intake problems."


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Civil & Environmental Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





CFD, pump intakes, flow, Fluid dynamics, Mathematical models, Pumping machinery, Finite element method