Fundamentals of Fluid Power

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Course Date: 22 September 2014 to 10 November 2014 (7 weeks)

Price: free

Course Summary

Fluid power has the highest power density of all conventional power-transmission technologies. Learn the benefits and limitations of fluid power, how to analyze fluid power components and circuits, and how to design and simulate fluid power circuits for applications.

Estimated Workload: 5-7 hours/week

Course Instructors

James Van De Ven

James D. Van de Ven is an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Mechanical Engineering where he operates the Mechanical Energy and Power Systems (MEPS) Laboratory. Professor Van de Ven received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Minnesota in 2006. From 2007 to 2011, he was an assistant professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Prior to joining WPI, Dr. Van de Ven was a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Minnesota in the National Science Foundation-sponsored Engineering Research Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power. Dr. Van de Ven’s research interests are in efficient energy conversion, energy storage, fluid power, kinematics, and machine design.

Will Durfee

Will Durfee is professor and director of Design Education in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA. He received the A.B. degree in engineering and applied physics from Harvard University and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His professional interests include the design of medical devices, rehabilitation engineering, advanced orthotics, biomechanics and physiology of human muscle including electrical stimulation of muscle, product design, and design education.

Course Description

In this course, you will be introduced to the fundamental principles and analytical modeling of fluid power components, circuits, and systems.

You will learn the benefits and limitations of fluid power compared with other power transmission technologies;  the operation, use, and symbols of common hydraulic components; how to formulate and analyze models of hydraulic components and circuits; and how to design and predict the performance of fluid power circuits.

This course is supported by the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power, and is endorsed by the National Fluid Power Association, the leading industry trade group in fluid power.


Will there be a certificate offered?

Yes, there will be a Statement of Accomplishment offered for this course. Signature track is available.

Who should take this course?

New engineering hires at a company that uses (or wants to use) fluid power. Engineering graduate students engaged in a research project that uses fluid power. Engineering undergraduate students who wish to be exposed to fluid power. Anyone with a curiosity who wishes to gain a deeper understanding about how fluid power systems work.


UNIT 1: Fundamentals of Fluid Power

  • Applications of fluid power
  • Benefits and limitations of fluid power
  • Hydraulics and pneumatics
  • Fundamental laws applied to fluid power

UNIT 2: Hydraulic Components

  • Basic components
  • Flow control valves
  • Pressure control valves
  • Servo-valves

UNIT 3: Fluid Properties

  • Viscosity and impact on flow resistance and leakage
  • Fluid compressibility and impact on efficiency and resonance
  • Fluid inertia

UNIT 4: Hydraulic Circuits

  • Flow metering: meter-in, meter-out, and bleed off circuits
  • Series & parallel connections of components
  • Energy storage in hydraulic systems
  • Sizing of hydraulic components


The course will be delivered through short video presentations that will include lectures, laboratory demonstrations, large system demonstrations, and discussions with industry experts. You will engage with the material through short comprehension questions, online discussion forums, homework assignments, and quizzes. You will also be able to see course concepts in action by conducting at-home lab experiments.

Suggested Reading



  • Eaton Hydraulics Training Services, 2008, Industrial Hydraulics Manual, 5th Ed., Eaton Hydraulics Training Services.
  • Manring, N., 2005, Hydraulic Control Systems, Wiley.
  • Merritt, H.E., 1967, Hydraulic Control Systems, Wiley.
  • Sullivan, J., 1998, Fluid Power, Theory and Applications, 4th Ed. Prentice Hall.
  • Cundiff, J.S., 2001, Fluid Power Circuits and Control, CRC Press.

Course Workload

5-7 hours/week

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