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Fluid mechanics

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Continuum mechanics
Diagram illustrating a derivation using Bernoulli's Law
Solid mechanics[show]
Fluid mechanics[show]
v t e
Fluid mechanics is the branch of physics that studies the mechanics of fluids (l
iquids, gases, and plasmas) and the forces on them. Fluid mechanics can be divid
ed into fluid statics, the study of fluids at rest; and fluid dynamics, the stud
y of the effect of forces on fluid motion. It is a branch of continuum mechanics
, a subject which models matter without using the information that it is made ou
t of atoms; that is, it models matter from a macroscopic viewpoint rather than f
rom microscopic. Fluid mechanics, especially fluid dynamics, is an active field
of research with many problems that are partly or wholly unsolved. Fluid mechani
cs can be mathematically complex, and can best be solved by numerical methods, t
ypically using computers. A modern discipline, called computational fluid dynami
cs (CFD), is devoted to this approach to solving fluid mechanics problems. Parti
cle image velocimetry, an experimental method for visualizing and analyzing flui
d flow, also takes advantage of the highly visual nature of fluid flow.
Main branches[edit]
Fluid statics[edit]
Main article: Fluid statics
Fluid statics or hydrostatics is the branch of fluid mechanics that studies flui
ds at rest. It embraces the study of the conditions under which fluids are at re
st in stable equilibrium; and is contrasted with fluid dynamics, the study of fl
uids in motion.
Hydrostatics is fundamental to hydraulics, the engineering of equipment for stor
ing, transporting and using fluids. It is also relevant to geophysics and astrop
hysics (for example, in understanding plate tectonics and the anomalies of the E
arth's gravitational field), to meteorology, to medicine (in the context of bloo
d pressure), and many other fields.
Hydrostatics offers physical explanations for many phenomena of everyday life, s
uch as why atmospheric pressure changes with altitude, why wood and oil float on
water, and why the surface of water is always flat and horizontal whatever the
shape of its container.
Fluid dynamics[edit]
Main article: Fluid dynamics
Fluid dynamics is a subdiscipline of fluid mechanics that deals with fluid flow th
e natural science of fluids (liquids and gases) in motion. It has several subdis
ciplines itself, including aerodynamics (the study of air and other gases in mot
ion) and hydrodynamics (the study of liquids in motion). Fluid dynamics has a wi
de range of applications, including calculating forces and moments on aircraft,
determining the mass flow rate of petroleum through pipelines, predicting weathe
r patterns, understanding nebulae in interstellar space and modelling fission we
apon detonation. Some of its principles are even used in traffic engineering, wh
ere traffic is treated as a continuous fluid, and crowd dynamics.

Fluid dynamics offers a systematic structure which underlies these practical disci
plines that embraces empirical and semi-empirical laws derived from flow measureme
nt and used to solve practical problems. The solution to a fluid dynamics proble
m typically involves calculating various properties of the fluid, such as veloci
ty, pressure, density, and temperature, as functions of space and time.
Relationship to continuum mechanics[edit]
Fluid mechanics is a subdiscipline of continuum mechanics, as illustrated in the
following table.
Continuum mechanics
The study of the physics of continuous materials
Solid mechanics
The study of the physics of continuous materials with a defined rest shape.
Describes materials that return to their rest shape after applied stresses are r
Describes materials that permanently deform after a sufficient applied stress.
The study of materials with both solid and fluid characteristics.
Fluid mechanics
The study of the physics of continuous materials which deform when subjected to
a force.
Non-Newtonian fluids do not undergo strain rates proportional to
the applied shear stress.
Newtonian fluids undergo strain rates proportional to the applied shear stress.
In a mechanical view, a fluid is a substance that does not support shear stress;
that is why a fluid at rest has the shape of its containing vessel. A fluid at
rest has no shear stress.
Balance for some integrated fluid quantity in a control volume enclosed by a con
trol surface.
Like any mathematical model of the real world, fluid mechanics makes some basic
assumptions about the materials being studied. These assumptions are turned into
equations that must be satisfied if the assumptions are to be held true.
For example, consider a fluid in three dimensions. The assumption that mass is c
onserved means that for any fixed control volume (for example a sphere)
by a control surface the rate of change of the mass contained is equal to the r
ate at which mass is passing from outside to inside through the surface, minus t
he rate at which mass is passing the other way, from inside to outside. (A speci
al case would be when the mass inside and the mass outside remain constant). Thi
s can be turned into an equation in integral form over the control volume.[1]
Fluid mechanics assumes that every fluid obeys the following:
Conservation of mass
Conservation of energy
Conservation of momentum
The continuum hypothesis, detailed below.
Further, it is useful at low subsonic speeds to assume that a gas is incompressi
ble that is, the density of the gas does not change even though the speed and st
atic pressure change.
Similarly, it can sometimes be assumed that the viscosity of the fluid is zero (
the fluid is inviscid). If a fluid is viscous, and its flow contained in some wa
y (e.g. in a pipe), then the flow at the boundary must have zero velocity. For a
viscous fluid, if the boundary is not porous, the shear forces between the flui
d and the boundary results also in a zero velocity for the fluid at the boundary

. This is called the no-slip condition. For a porous media otherwise, in the fro
ntier of the containing vessel, the slip condition is not zero velocity, and the
fluid has a discontinuous velocity field between the free fluid and the fluid i
n the porous media (this is related to the Beavers and Joseph condition).
Continuum hypothesis[edit]
Main article: Continuum mechanics
Fluids are composed of molecules that collide with one another and solid objects
. The continuum assumption, however, considers fluids to be continuous. That is,
properties such as density, pressure, temperature, and velocity are taken to be
well-defined at "infinitely" small points, defining a REV (Reference Element of
Volume), at the geometric order of the distance between two adjacent molecules
of fluid. Properties are assumed to vary continuously from one point to another,
and are averaged values in the REV. The fact that the fluid is made up of discr
ete molecules is ignored.
The continuum hypothesis is basically an approximation, in the same way planets
are approximated by point particles when dealing with celestial mechanics, and t
herefore results in approximate solutions. Consequently, assumption of the conti
nuum hypothesis can lead to results which are not of desired accuracy. However,
under the right circumstances, the continuum hypothesis produces extremely accur
ate results.
Those problems for which the continuum hypothesis does not allow solutions of de
sired accuracy are solved using statistical mechanics. To determine whether or n
ot to use conventional fluid dynamics or statistical mechanics, the Knudsen numb
er is evaluated for the problem. The Knudsen number is defined as the ratio of t
he molecular mean free path length to a certain representative physical length s
cale. This length scale could be, for example, the radius of a body in a fluid.
(More simply, the Knudsen number is how many times its own diameter a particle w
ill travel on average before hitting another particle). Problems with Knudsen nu
mbers at or above one are best evaluated using statistical mechanics for reliabl
e solutions.
Navier Stokes equations[edit]
Main article: Navier Stokes equations
The Navier Stokes equations (named after Claude-Louis Navier and George Gabriel St
okes) are the set of equations that describe the motion of fluid substances such
as liquids and gases. These equations state that changes in momentum (force) of
fluid particles depend only on the external pressure and internal viscous force
s (similar to friction) acting on the fluid. Thus, the Navier Stokes equations des
cribe the balance of forces acting at any given region of the fluid.
The Navier Stokes equations are differential equations which describe the motion o
f a fluid. Such equations establish relations among the rates of change of the v
ariables of interest. For example, the Navier Stokes equations for an ideal fluid
with zero viscosity states that acceleration (the rate of change of velocity) is
proportional to the derivative of internal pressure.
This means that solutions of the Navier Stokes equations for a given physical prob
lem must be sought with the help of calculus. In practical terms only the simple
st cases can be solved exactly in this way. These cases generally involve non-tu
rbulent, steady flow (flow does not change with time) in which the Reynolds numb
er is small.
For more complex situations, involving turbulence, such as global weather system
s, aerodynamics, hydrodynamics and many more, solutions of the Navier Stokes equat
ions can currently only be found with the help of computers. This branch of scie
nce is called computational fluid dynamics.