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Falling sphere viscometers

Creeping flow past a sphere.

Stokes' law is the basis of the falling sphere viscometer, in which the fluid is stationary in a vertical glass tube. A sphere of known size and density is allowed to descend through the liquid. If correctly selected, it reaches terminal velocity, which can be measured by the time it takes to pass two marks on the tube. Electronic sensing can be used for opaque fluids. Knowing the terminal velocity, the size and density of the sphere, and the density of the liquid, Stokes' law can be used to calculate the viscosity of the fluid. A series of steel ball bearings of different diameter is normally used in the classic experiment to improve the accuracy of the calculation. The school experiment uses glycerine as the fluid, and the technique is used industrially to check the viscosity of fluids used in processes. It includes many different oils, and polymer liquids such as solutions. In 1851, George Gabriel Stokes derived an expression for the frictional force (also called drag force) exerted on spherical objects with very small Reynolds numbers(e.g., very small particles) in a continuous viscous fluid by changing the small fluid-mass limit of the generally unsolvable Navier-Stokes equations:


F is the frictional force, r is the radius of the spherical object, is the fluid viscosity, and v is the particle's velocity.

If the particles are falling in the viscous fluid by their own weight, then a terminal velocity, also known as the settling velocity, is reached when this frictional force

combined with the buoyant force exactly balance the gravitational force. The resulting settling velocity (or terminal velocity) is given by:


Vs is the particles' settling velocity (m/s) (vertically downwards if if p < f), r is the Stokes radius of the particle (m), g is the gravitational acceleration (m/s2),
p f





is the density of the particles (kg/m3), is the density of the fluid (kg/m3), and

is the (dynamic) fluid viscosity (Pa s). Note that Stokes flow is assumed, so the Reynolds number must be small. A limiting factor on the validity of this result is the Roughness of the sphere being used. A modification of the straight falling sphere viscometer is a rolling ball viscometer which times a ball rolling down a slope whilst immersed in the test fluid. This can be further improved by using a patented V plate which increases the number of rotations to distance traveled, allowing smaller more portable devices. This type of device is also suitable for ship board use.

Calorific value: y
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Choose your type of fuel so you can determine its energy density.

Get the density from research institutions online (see Resources). Using gasoline as an example, the School of Oceanography at Washington University states that a U.S. gallon of premium gasoline has a density of 132 mega joules per gallon (132 Mj/gallon).
y 3

Convert gallons to liters by multiplying 132 by 0.266 to get 35. This is the Mega joules per liter (35 Mj/l).
y 4

Multiply 35 by 1,000 to get 35,000, equating to 35,000 kilo joules per liter (Kj/l is the unit of measurement generally used).
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Divide 35,000 Kj/l by four. This assumes that one calorie equals four Joules. The result is the calorific value, which in this example indicates a U.S. gallon of premium gasoline has a calorific value of approximately 8,750 Kj/l.