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Bulk Modulus

Bulk Modulus is a measure of the resistance of a fluid to compression. It is defined as the ratio of pressure stress to volumetric strain. The value of bulk modulus equals the pressure change x 100 required to cause a one percent change in volume.

MIL-H-83282 oil has a bulk modulus of 3.0 x 105 psi. Thus, a pressure increase of 3000 psi will reduce its volume by 1.0%.

When the value of B is known (see reference table below), it is easy to calculate the effect of any pressure change on volume, or of any volume change on pressure.

Coefficient of Thermal Expansion

The Coefficient of Cubical Thermal Expansion is the change in volume per unit volume caused by a change in temperature of 1°F.

MIL-H-83282 oil has a coefficient of cubical thermal expansion of 0.00046/°F. Thus a temperature rise of 100°F will increase
its volume by 4.6%.

The bulk modulus and the coefficient of cubical thermal expansion can be used together to compute the pressure rise in a closed system subjected to an increasing temperature.

MIL-H-83282 oil at 0 psi is heated from 70°F to 120°F in a closed, constant volume system containing 100 cu. in.'

This is the same ΔP which would be caused by adding 2.3 cubic inches of oil with no temperature change. It is also apparent that a constant system pressure could be maintained by bleeding off 2.3 cubic inches of oil while increasing the
temperature by 50°F.

Reference Table

Swipe to the right for more table information

Fluid Bref. γ Flash Point* Pour Point
Units psi ΔV/V/°F °F, min. °F, max.
Gasoline 150 000 0.00072 -50° -75°
JP-4 200 000 0.00057 -76°
MIL-H-5606 260 000 0.00046 200° -75°
MIL-H-83282 300 000 0.00046 400° -65°
MIL-H-6083 260 000 0.00044 200° -75°
SKYDROL 500B-4 340 000 0.00047 340° -80°
Silicone 100cs 150 000 0.00054 575° -65°
Water 310 000 0.00021 +32°

Bref. = Tangent adiabatic bulk modulus psi stated at 100°F, 2500 psi and no entrained air. A reference point.
γ = Coefficient of cubical thermal expansion/°F at 100°F
ΔP = Pressure rise, psi
ΔT = Temperature rise, °F
P1, P2 = Initial and final pressures, psi

*Flash point is the lowest temperature at which sufficient combustible vapor is driven off a fuel to flash when ignited in the presence of air.


The previous examples used a constant bulk modulus for simplicity. In actual use, the bulk modulus is affected by the working pressure, temperature and percent of entrained air. Use the next 3 graphs to find the effect of these variables, and you will get a close approximation of actual conditions. The actual bulk modulus, B, of a fluid is the value in the table, above, as Bref. modified for the effect of pressure, temperature and percent of entrained air.

The actual bulk modulus B = EP x ET x EA x Bref.

500 psi, 60°F, 2% entrained air, MIL-H-83282.
Actual B = 0.91 x 1.10 x 0.8 x 300,000 = 240,000 psi

2000 psi, 160°F, 2% entrained air, MIL-H-83282.
Actual B = 0.98 x 0.86 x 0.98 x 300,000 = 248,000 psi

With the corrected bulk moduli for the two end points of a thermal problem, an average bulk modulus can be selected for calculation purposes. We would use 244,000 psi for B.

Thermal Relief Valves made by The Lee Company remain closed on a temperature increase until the pressure reaches a predetermined safety value, and then bleed off only that amount of liquid determined by the above conditions.

This is expressed by:

Note: In this case the ΔP is the difference between the initial pressure and the cracking pressure of the valve.

Working Pressure

The effect of working pressure on bulk modulus for hydrocarbon fluids.


The effect of temperature on bulk modulus for hydrocarbon fluids.

Extrained Air

The effect of entrained air on bulk modulus in hydrocarbon and other fluids for different working pressures.

To simplify the calculations of thermal problems with entrained air, these curves show the average effect on a 230,000 psi bulk modulus for pressure points fairly close together. If a wide change in pressure is encountered in a problem, it would be more accurate to break the changes down into two or more steps, depending on the accuracy desired.

An accurate one step formula for this relationship follows: (Note that pressure is in units of psia.)