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Can You Trust the Joukowsky Equation for Waterhammer?

By Trey Walters |

The Joukowsky equation is often relied upon to determine the maximum possible fluid pressure inside a pipe, but there are certain scenarios where this equation does not return the expected conservative result for overpressurization We engineers love our formulas. Especially when we know they can quickly give us a conservative, worst-case answer. As a young engineer in the aerospace and power industries, I participated in multiple meetings and read several reports that used the Joukowsky equation to determine a maximum possible fluid pressure inside a pipe. Since everyone “knew” that the Joukowsky equation predicted the maximum possible pressure, this was a quick and reasonable thing to do. Unbeknownst to my managers, colleagues and myself at the time, this was a potentially dangerous thing to do. Because while the Joukowsky equation often returns a conservative result, it cannot be relied upon to do so in every situation. This article summarizes the important points of a recent journal article [1] that discusses three different situations for which the Joukowsky equation does not give a worst-case, conservative answer. The Joukowsky equation The Joukowsky equation [2] relates the instant change in piezometric (hydraulic) head,…
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