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Mechanical engineering: heat and flow

Qualification dates
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In this module, you’ll study thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, heat transfer, and sustainability. Theoretical understanding is supported and applied with practical experiments conducted individually and in pairs (using expansion of a perfect gas equipment and wind tunnels) in our OpenSTEM Labs. During your study, you’ll learn industrially relevant skills of heat transfer analysis using ANSYS, the Finite Element Analysis (FEA) software package. As part of a group project, you’ll apply the knowledge gained to design the heating and cooling of a low-carbon building.

What you will study

T229 has been designed in three parts; each part is presented both as a printed book with associated online activities. Part 1 focuses on thermodynamics; Part 2 covers fluid mechanics; Part 3 is about heating, cooling and sustainability.

Part 1: Thermodynamics
You’ll consider different forms of energy and how it transforms from one to another. You’ll then discover the limits to these transformations, and the directionality of these processes before learning how heat energy can be harnessed to do mechanical work using a heat engine. This understanding will then be applied to both steam turbines for power generation and jet engines for transport. The reverse process, the heat pump is introduced, as the basis of the refrigeration cycle. Its usefulness in both geothermal power and food preservation is explained.

Part 2: Fluid mechanics
This part looks at the behaviour of liquids and gases moving in a wide range of situations, from domestic plumbing to hurricanes and from jet engines to hydraulic braking systems such as that found in various forms of transport. You will learn how physical and mathematical models help engineers to understand the behaviour of fluids and to solve real-world problems.

Part 3: Heating, cooling and sustainability
You’ll apply your knowledge to design the heating and cooling of ‘low carbon’ buildings and will learn about heat transfer mechanisms within buildings – including radiators, insulation and heat exchange mechanisms. You’ll consider the role of ;engineers in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the context of global climate policies and will be taught how to apply simple Life Cycle Assessment to buildings. Part 3 also introduces the theory behind effective teamwork and applies this to a group project to design a low-energy and low-carbon building.

Throughout the module there will be opportunities to complement and enhance theoretical knowledge by carrying out a number of relevant experiments. In Parts 1 and 2, you’ll remotely access our OpenEngineering Laboratory to carry out experiments and acquire data in real time. In Part 3, you’ll gain skills in heat transfer analysis by exploring the use of the industry-standard finite element analysis (FEA) software package, ANSYS. If you have concerns about working in a group, talk these through with your tutor as soon as possible.

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements to study this module.

However, we recommend you’ve passed one of the following modules:

The module assumes a level of mathematics skill and prior knowledge which you’ll get from successfully completing one of the modules above. It assumes, and builds on, existing knowledge and skill in the use of trigonometry; differential and integral calculus; vectors; polar coordinate systems; and complex numbers.

If you’re not sure you’re ready, talk to an adviser.

Preparatory work

Core engineering A (T271) and Core engineering B (T272) are ideal preparation for this module. We highly recommend you’ve at least studied T271 before studying T229.

What's included

  • Access to the module study materials via the module website.
  • Three printed module books and a handbook.

Module material is provided in three printed books and two OEL instruction booklets along with associated online activities on the T229 module website. In order to successfully study this module, you need to access both the online and printed materials. A module map and study planner are available for you to use when planning your study.

The module map shows the overall structure of the module and the key assessment dates, with each week displaying detail of what you will be studying. Each week the study planner has an essential overview, which shows what needs to be studied and the order in which to study the print.

You will need

  • A scientific calculator.
  • A device capable of producing digital images (e.g. a smartphone, digital camera or scanner).
  • Basic drawing equipment.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date 64-bit version of Windows (10 or 11)*. Any macOS is unsuitable.

Minimum and recommended requirements for The Open University ANSYS software:

  • Minimum i3 processor or equivalent (i5 equivalent or above recommended).
  • Minimum 512 MB graphics card (1 GB or higher recommended).
  • Minimum 4 GB of RAM* (8 GB or more recommended).
  • Minimum 25 GB hard drive (50 GB or larger strongly recommended).
  • Physical ‘C:/’ drive present.
  • You’ll need administrator privileges on your machine.
  • OpenGL-capable.

*A version of ANSYS for Linux OS is also available. The Linux version may require more than 4 GB of RAM.

In addition:

  • You’ll need control over your internet connection settings – corporate firewalls may prevent FEA software from accessing the Internet.
  • 22" or larger monitor recommended.

See System and browser requirements for Ansys software for information on Ansys Student Version.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying T229 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Mechanical engineering: heat and flow (T229) starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2027.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
3 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
End-of-module assessment