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Fundamentals of Fluid Power

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.


Eligible for

Statement of Accomplishment

Course at a Glance


About the Course

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.

Course Syllabus

UNIT 1: Fundamentals of Fluid Power

  • What is fluid power?
  • Hydraulics and pneumatics
  • How fluid power compares to other transmission technologies

UNIT 2: Components and Concepts

  • Fundamentals of fluid power via the cylinder
  • Schematic diagrams
  • Fluid power conduits
  • The valve
  • Pumps

UNIT 3: Predicting Performance through Simulation

  • Why simulate?
  • Object oriented simulation

UNIT 4: Fluid Properties

  • Introduction to hydraulic fluids
  • Compressibility
  • Inertia
UNIT 5: Advanced Components and Systems
  • Accumulator
  • Seals
  • Servovalves
  • Hydraulic hybrid vehicles
UNIT 6: Course Wrap-up

Recommended Background

  • Undergraduate physics (required)
  • Ordinary differential equations (required)
  • Fluid dynamics (helpful but not necessary)
  • System dynamics and controls (helpful but not necessary)

Suggested Readings



  • 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 Format

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. 


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.