Mechanical Engineering

Contact Information

Higgins Laboratories, 213

Mahadevan Padmanabhan

  • Adjunct Professor, 

As an adjunct professor, Mahadevan Padmanabhan enjoys teaching and sharing with students several examples of practical applications of fluid mechanics and thermo-fluids based on his vast experience in Power Industry.

He has been with the Alden Research Laboratory (Alden) in Holden, MA for the past 35 years, solving flow-related problems for the power, water, and wastewater industries through physical and computer modeling. Alden used to be part of WPI until 1986. Even though Professor Padmanabhan retired from Alden as a senior vice president and principal in 2003, he is still continuing as a technical advisor at present.

He particularly enjoys teaching Fluid Mechanics and Thermo-Fluid Applications both at undergraduate and graduate level. As his background covers both mechanical and civil engineering applications, he often teaches courses for both of these departments at WPI. He strongly feels that WPI provides an excellent learning environment for students substantiated by its long history and reputation as one of the best engineering schools in the country.

Research Interests

  • Hydo-power Engineering; Modeling of dams, power houses and navigation structures in rivers to study flow patterns, and effects on sediment transport/deposition
  • Power Plant Cooling Water Intakes; Hydraulic modeling and suppression of surface and sub-surface vortices in pump sumps
  • Improvement of closed conduit flow patterns to maximize the performance of fluid related equipment such as manifolds, condensers, and heat exchangers
  • Analytical and physical modeling to optimize thermal discharge from steam power stations


  • B.S., Kerala University, India, 1964, Civil Engineering
  • M.Tech., Indian Institute of Technology, 1966, Civil Engineering
  • M.S., Georgia Institute of Technology, 1975, Civil Engineering
  • Ph.D., Georgia Institute of Technology, 1976, Civil Engineering

Featured Publications

  • "Avoiding Common Pitfalls in Cooling Tower Pump Intake Design Related to Hydraulic Performance" with T.C. Sassaman and A.E. Johansson, 2009, ASME Power Conference, Albuquerque, NM, July 20-23, 2009.
  • "Numerical Simulation of Airflow Through the Inlet Duct of a Gas to Air Heat Exchanger," with Cain, 1998 ASME International Joint Power Generation Conference, Baltimore, Maryland, August 1998.
  • "Evaluation of Tidal Effects on Thermal Plumes Using a Physical Model," International Conference on Physical Modeling of Transport and Dispersion, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1990.
  • Section on Design Recommendations for Pump Sumps, "Swirl Flow Problems at Intakes" Hydraulic Structures Design Manual, Published by A.A. Balkema for International Association of Hydraulic Research, 1987.
  • Section on "Intake Modeling" in Pump Handbook, with Larsen, McGraw Hill Book Co., Second Edition, 1986.

Professional Highlights

  • Fellow, American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
  • Member, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
  • Member, Heat Exchangers Committee, Power Division, ASME
  • Recipient of the Prestigious 2011 Hydraulic Structures Medal, ASCE/EWRI
  • Professional Engineer, Massachusetts
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