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Fluid dynamics

Fluid dynamics is the study of the flow of liquids and gases, usually in and around solid surfaces. For example, fluid dynamics can be
used to analyze the flow of air over an airplane wing or over the surface of an automobile. It also can be used in the design of ships to
increase the speed with which they travel through water.
Scientists use both experiments and mathematical models and calculations to understand fluid dynamics. A wind tunnel is an
enclosed space in which air can be made to flow over a surface, such as the model of an airplane. Smoke is added to the air stream
so that the flow of air can be observed and photographed.
The data collected from wind tunnel studies and other experiments are often very complex. Scientists today use models of fluid
behavior and powerful computers to analyze and interpret those data.
The field of fluid dynamics is often subdivided into aerodynamics and hydrodynamics. Aerodynamics is the study of the way air flows
around airplanes and automobiles with the aim of increasing the efficiency of motion. Hydrodynamics deals with the flow of water in
various situations such as in pipes, around ships, and underground. Apart from the more familiar cases, the principles of fluid
dynamics can be used to understand an almost unimaginable variety of phenomena such as the flow of blood in blood vessels, the
flight of geese in V-formation, and the behavior of underwater plants and animals.
Factors that influence flow
Flow patterns in a fluid (gas or liquid) depend on three factors: the characteristics of the fluid, the speed of flow, and the shape of the
solid surface. Three characteristics of the fluid are of special importance: viscosity, density, and compressibility. Viscosity is the
amount of internal friction or resistance to flow. Water, for instance, is less viscous than honey, which explains why water flows more
easily than does honey.
All gases are compressible, whereas liquids are practically incompressible; that is, they cannot be squeezed into smaller volumes.
Flow patterns in compressible fluids are more complicated and difficult to study than those in incompressible ones. Fortunately for
automobile designers, at speeds less than about 220 miles (350 kilometers) per hour, air can be treated as incompressible for all
practical purposes. Also, for incompressible fluids, the effects of temperature changes can be neglected.
Words to Know
Boundary layer: The layer of fluid that sticks to a solid surface and through which the speed of the fluid decreases.
Compressibility: The property that allows a fluid to be compressed into a smaller volume.
Laminar: A mode of flow in which the fluid moves in layers along continuous, well-defined lines known as streamlines.
Turbulent: An irregular, disorderly mode of flow.
Viscosity: The internal friction within a fluid that makes it resist flow.
Laminar and turbulent flow
Flow patterns can be characterized as laminar or turbulent. The term laminar refers to streamlined flow in which a fluid glides along in
layers that do not mix. The flow takes place in smooth continuous lines called streamlines. You can observe this effect when you open
a water faucet just a little so that the flow is clear and regular. If you continue turning the faucet, the flow gradually becomes cloudy
and irregular. This condition is known as turbulent flow.
The viscosity, density, and compressibility of a fluid are the properties that determine how the liquid or gas will flow. Viscosity
measures the internal friction or resistance to flow. Water, for instance, is less viscous than honey and so flows more easily. All gases
are compressible whereas liquids are practically incompressible and cannot be squeezed into smaller volumes. Flow patterns in
compressible fluids are more complicated and difficult to study than those in incompressible ones. Fortunately for automobile
designers, air, at speeds less than 220 MPH (354 km/h) or one-third the speed of sound, can be treated as incompressible for all
practical purposes. Also, for incompressible fluids, the effects of temperature changes can be neglected.

Daniel Bernoulli (1700-1782) was the first person to study fluid flow mathematically. He imagined a completely non-viscous and
incompressible or "ideal" fluid in order to simplify the mathematics. Bernoulli's principle for an ideal fluid essentially says that the
total amount of energy in a laminar flow is always the same. This energy has three componentspotential energy due to gravity,
potential energy due to pressure in the fluid, and kinetic energy due to speed of flow. Since the total energy is constant, increasing
one component will decrease another. For instance, in a horizontal pipe in which gravitational energy stays the same, the fluid will
move faster through a constriction and will, therefore, exert less pressure on the walls. In recent years, powerful computers have
made it possible for scientists to attack the full mathematical complexity of the equations that describe the flow of real, viscous, and
compressible fluids. Bernoulli's principle, however, remains surprisingly relevant in a variety of situations and is probably the single
most important principle in fluid dynamics.

Which Factors?

A substances flow behavior depends on three factors:

The substances inner - molecular structure. The tighter the molecules are linked, the more the substance will resist
deformation, i.e. the less it will be willing to flow.
The outside or external forces acting upon the substance that deform it or make it flow. Both the intensity of the external
force as well as the duration has an influence. Only Newtonian liquids are independent of the external force. The external
force can have the form of wiping or pushing or tearing a substance; the simplest form is gravity, which pulls all substances
down to earth. In viscometry, the external forces figure as shear rate or shear stress.
The ambient conditions. The temperature and the pressure when the substance is stressed by external forces.

Depending on these factors the substance flows and develops different types of flow. Only one type of flow is suitable for testing a

substance's viscosity.

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Flow Conditions - Laminar or Turbulent

For testing a fluid's viscosity, defined flow conditions are essential. The fluid has to develop laminar flow. With laminar flow, the

substance moves in imaginary thin layers in which molecules do not change from one layer to another. The flow has an orderly


In turbulent flow, on the other hand, no recognizable structure or layers can be observed. Molecules move freely. The fluid forms


If testing a fluid under turbulent flow conditions, the results will give a falsely higher viscosity. (The turbulent movement of the

molecules will be misinterpreted - so to speak - as higher flow resistance by a measuring instrument).

Practical examples: A shear rate that is too high for the tested substance can lead to turbulent flow. That means that e.g. too fast

runtimes for glass capillary viscometers or spindles which turn too fast in rotational viscometers can cause turbulent flow.

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Laminar flow: Molecules move in separate layers | Turbulent flow: No recognizable structure or layers

Shear Rate

The shear rate is an important parameter in defining viscosity (refer to the two-plates model) and also in specifying a substance's

flow behavior.

The vital question is whether a change of shear rate does or does not change a fluid's viscosity. This question draws the line between

Newtonian and non-Newtonian fluids.

Ideally viscous or Newtonian Liquids

If a fluid's internal flow resistance is independent of the external force i.e. the shear rate - acting upon the fluid, it is ideally viscous.

Such fluids are named Newtonian liquids after Sir Isaac Newton, who discovered the mathematical relation between viscosity and the

external force acting upon a fluid. A viscosity function means plotting the viscosity over the shear rate. The viscosity function of a

Newtonian liquid is a straight line (curve 1). Typical Newtonian liquids are water or salad oil.

Non-Newtonian Liquids

If a substance is not ideally viscous, its viscosity changes with the shear rate. For such substances the apparent viscosity is specified.

There are substances that show shear-thinning behavior (curve 2). Their viscosity decreases when the shear rate increases. For other

substances the viscosity increases with increasing shear rate that is called shear-thickening (curve 3).

For example yoghurt and shower gel show shear-thinning behavior, while starch solutions show shear-thickening behavior. These are

just two of the most basic examples of potential flow behavior. Learn more about how shear rate can influence a substances flow

behavior in World of rheology.

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A fluid's viscosity strongly depends on its temperature. Along with the shear rate, temperature really is the dominating influence. The

higher the temperature is, the lower a substance's viscosity is. Consequently, decreasing temperature causes an increase in viscosity.

The relationship between temperature and viscosity is inversely proportional for all substances. A change in temperature always

affects the viscosity it depends on the substance just how much it is influenced by a temperature change. For some fluids a

decrease of 1C already causes a 10 % increase in viscosity.


In most cases, a fluid's viscosity increases with increasing pressure. Compared to the temperature influence, liquids are influenced

very little by the applied pressure. The reason is that liquids (other than gases) are almost non-compressible at low or medium

pressures. For most liquids, a considerable change in pressure from 0.1 to 30 MPa causes about the same change in viscosity as a

temperature change of about 1 K (1C).

Even for the enormous pressure difference of 0.1 to 200 MPa the viscosity increase for most low-molecular liquids amounts to a factor

3 to 7 only. However, for mineral oils with high viscosity this factor can be up to 20000. For synthetic oils, this pressure change can

even result in a viscosity increase by a factor of up to 8 million. For example, lubricants in cogwheels or gears can be submitted to

pressures of 1 GPa and higher. For better understanding, refer to the conversion equation for pressure units: 1 bar = 0.1 MPa = 10 5 Pa

= 105 N/m2

For most liquids, viscosity increases with increasing pressure because the amount of free volume in the internal structure decreases

due to compression. Consequently, the molecules can move less freely and the internal friction forces increase. The result is an

increased flow resistance.

The Flow Behavior of Water under Pressure

The anomaly that water has its maximum density at +4C is widely known. Such an anomaly can also be observed for the flow

behavior of water under pressure. For temperatures >+32C, water behaves like other liquids. Its viscosity increases with increasing

pressure. Below +32C and under pressures of up to 20 MPa, the water's viscosity decreases with increasing pressure. The reason is

that the structure of the three-dimensional network of hydrogen bridges is destroyed. This network is rather stronger than the

structures of other low-molecular liquids.

The Bernoulli Equation can be considered to be a statement of the conservation of energy principle appropriate for flowing fluids. The
qualitative behavior that is usually labeled with the term "Bernoulli effect" is the lowering of fluid pressure in regions where the flow
velocity is increased. This lowering of pressure in a constriction of a flow path may seem counterintuitive, but seems less so when you
consider pressure to be energy density. In the high velocity flow through the constriction, kinetic energy must increase at the
expense of pressure energy.