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Southern Methodist University

Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering


ENCE/ME 2342 Fluid Mechanics
Roger O. Dickey, Ph.D., P.E.

II. HYDROSTATICS
C. Hydrostatic Forces on Plane Surfaces
Reading Assignment:
Chapter 2 Fluid Statics, Sections 2.8 and 2.9
C. Hydrostatic Forces on Plane Surfaces
When a surface is submerged in a fluid, forces
develop on the surface due to fluid pressure,
i.e., normal stress or normal force per unit area.
For static fluids where there are no shear
stresses, the magnitude of the resultant force,
F
R
, applied to any arbitrary surface is simply
the product of the average pressure, p, acting
on the surface times the area of the surface, A,
i.e., F
R
= pA.
Determination of pressure forces is important for
the analysis and design of:
Pressure vessels and conduits
Ships and submarines
Storage tanks and impoundments
Dams and other hydraulic structures
Grout curtains and retaining walls for
groundwater
Notation for Integrating (Summing) Physical
Quantities over Areas and Volumes
Planar Areas
Let u(x,y) be a physical quantity per unit area.
Then, the total amount, u
T
, contained within an
arbitrary fixed Region in the xy-plane is:
}} }}
= =
R
T
R
T
dxdy dA or u u u u
3-Dimensional Surfaces in Space
Let |(x,y,z) be a physical quantity per unit area.
Then, the total amount, |
T
, contained on an
arbitrary fixed 3-dimensional Surface in xyz-
space is:
}} }}
=
S
T
dA dA or | | |
3-Dimensional Volumes in Space
Let (x,y,z) be a physical quantity per unit volume.
Then, the total amount,
T
, contained within an
arbitrary fixed Volume in xyz-space is:
}}} }}}
= =
V
T
V
T
dxdydz dV or
Engineering Short-hand for Integrals
Engineering textbooks and references often
use a short-hand notation for area, surface, and
volume integrals:
}}} }
= =
V V
T T
dV dV
}} }
= =
S CS
T T
dA dA | | | |
} }}
= =
A
T
R
T
dA dA u u u u
Standard Math Engineering Short-hand
Horizontal Planar Surfaces
Consider an arbitrary horizontal surface
submerged in a liquid:
z
y
x
dF = pdA
dA
Arbitrary Region
of total area A in
the xy-plane
Then, the pressure force acting on any differential
area element, dA, within the planar Region is:

Integrating over the entire area yields the resultant
pressure force,
pdA dF =
} }
=
A A
pdA dF
Planar surface integrals
Pressure is constant along any horizontal surface
immersed in a static fluid, thus p may be
factored from the integral on the right-hand side
of the equation:

Completing the integration yields the
appropriate expression for the resultant force,
F
R
, on the planar surface of total area, A:
} }
=
A A
dA p dF
pA F
R
=
Consider an open-top tank of total planar area A,
filled to depth h with a liquid having specific
weight as shown in Figure 2.16 (a), p. 60:
If the tank bottom lies in a horizontal plane, the
fundamental principles of hydrostatics dictate
that: (i) pressure, p, is uniform everywhere over
the bottom, and (ii) p = h. Then, the resultant
pressure force acting on the tank bottom of area,
A, is given by:
hA F
R
=
The y-coordinate, y
R
, of the point of application
of the resultant pressure force can be determined
by summation of moments around the x-axis. In
other words, the moment created by the resultant
pressure force times its distance from the x-axis,
F
R
y
R
, must exactly equal the sum of the
moments created by all differential pressure
forces times their distances from the x-axis, ydF:
}
=
A
R R
ydF y F
Substituting (h)A for F
R
on the left-hand side
of the equation, and (h)dA for dF on the right-
hand side yields,
( ) ( )
}
=
A
R
dA h y Ay h
Factor the constant (h) from the integral on the
right-hand side, divide through by (h), and solve
for y
R
:

By definition, the expression on the right-hand
side of the equation is the y-coordinate of the
centroid, y
C
, of a planar Region of area A lying in
the xy-plane, hence, y
R
= y
C
.
A
ydA
y
A
R
}
=
The x-coordinate, x
R
, for the resultant pressure
force is determined in a similar manner using
summation of moments about the y-axis:


Once again, by definition, the expression on the
right-hand side of the equation is the x-coordinate
of the centroid, x
C
, of a planar Region of area A
lying in the xy-plane, hence, x
R
= x
C
.
A
xdA
x
A
R
}
=
This analysis proves that for horizontal surfaces
submerged to depth h in a static, incompressible
fluid having a free surface, the following apply:
The resultant pressure force is,
The resultant pressure force acts through the
centroid of the planar area; centroidal xy-
coordinates, (x
C
, y
C
), for common geometric
shapes are shown in Figure 2.18, p. 62:
hA F
R
=
Figure 2.18 (a), p. 62
Geometric Properties of Plane Shapes
Figure 2.18 (b), p. 62
Geometric Properties of Plane Shapes (continued)
Figure 2.18 (c), p. 62
Geometric Properties of Plane Shapes (continued)
Figure 2.18 (d), p. 62
Geometric Properties of Plane Shapes (continued)
Figure 2.18 (e), p. 62
Geometric Properties of Plane Shapes (concluded)
Inclined Planar Surfaces
Now consider the more general case of a planar
surface of arbitrary shape, having its y-axis
inclined at an arbitrary angle u from the
horizontal, and immersed in a liquid having a free
surface as illustrated in Figure 2.17, p. 60:
Fig. 2.17,
p. 60
Inclined
Planar
Surface
Pressure on the surface is not constant but, instead,
varies with depth according to the hydrostatic
distribution. Once again, the pressure force acting
normal to any differential area element, dA, within
the planar Region is

For a hydrostatic pressure distribution, p = h,
thus,
pdA dF =
( )dA h dF =
Now consider the geometric relationship between
the depth, h, and the y-coordinate of the differential
area element, dA:
u
Free Surface (pressure = p
0
)
y
h
y
h
dA
( ) ( ) u u sin sin y h
y
h
= =
Substituting ysin(u) for h in the equation for dF,

Integrating over the entire planar surface area,

Completing the integration on the left-hand side of
the equation yields the resultant pressure force, F
R
,
and factoring the constant sin(u) from the surface
integral on the right-hand side results in,
( )dA y dF sin =
( )
} }
=
A A
dA y dF sin
( )
}
=
A
R
ydA F u sin
By definition, the y-coordinate of the centroid, y
C
,
of a planar Region of area A lying in the xy-plane,
is,


Substituting Ay
C
for the integral on the right-hand
side of the equation for F
R
yields,
}
}
= =
A
C
A
C
ydA Ay
A
ydA
y
( ) u sin
C R
Ay F =
From geometric considerations, as shown above,

Finally, substituting h
C
for y
C
sin(u) in the equation
for F
R
,
A p F A h F
C R C R
= = or
( ) u sin
C C
y h =
[Equation (2.18), p. 61 Modified]
*Important Points
1. Derived result F
R
= p
C
A proves that the
magnitude of the resultant pressure force is the
product of the total area, A, and the pressure at
the centroid of the planar area, p
C
2. F
R
= p
C
A holds whether a free surface is present
or not. For example, when there is an
overpressure, p
0
, applied inside a pressure vessel
Equation (2.8), p. 45 may be applied at the
centroid of the planar area yielding
0
p h p
C C
+ =
3. Derived result F
R
= h
C
A proves that the
resultant pressure force is independent of the
angle u, depending only upon the depth to the
centroid of the planar area. Indeed, this
general result also applies to horizontal
surfaces (u = 0) where h = h
C
everywhere on
the surface.
4. Because hydrostatic pressure increases with
depth, pressures acting below the centroid of
an inclined planar surface are greater than
pressures acting above it. Consequently, the
resultant pressure force does not act through
the centroid of inclined surfaces, instead it
acts through a point called the pressure
center located at a depth somewhere below
the centroid. Consider the hydrostatic
pressure on a vertical (u = 90) tank wall:
2
b
2
b
C
C = Centroid of the Planar Area
CP = Center of Pressure
Figure 2.19, p. 65 Modified
2
h
2
h
5.
gases
<<
liquids
resulting in negligible variation
in gas pressure with depth over inclined planar
surfaces, hence the resultant gas pressure force
acts through the centroid of the area to a close
approximation.
6. In most cases, atmospheric pressure acts
equally on all sides of planar surfaces, thus
atmospheric pressure forces tend to counteract
making no contribution to the resultant
pressure force, as illustrated for a vertical tank
wall in Figure 2.22, p. 67:
Figure 2.22, p. 67 Atmospheric pressure forces act
equally on both sides of most surfaces, producing no
net contribution to the resultant pressure force.
Engineered systems relying on counteracting
atmospheric pressure forces may fail when
inadvertently exposed to overpressure or under-
pressure: (1) doors are difficult to push open
from the low pressure side of some rooms and
buildings, and (2) under-pressurized tanks can
be crushed:
Under-pressurized
Chemical Storage
Tank crushed like a
beer can by
atmospheric pressure
The y-coordinate, y
R
, of the pressure center for
the resultant pressure force can be determined
by summation of moments around the x-axis:

Since,
Similarly,
}
=
A
R R
ydF y F
| | ( ) | |A y F A h F
C R C R
u sin = =
( )dA y dF u sin =
Substituting for F and dF yields,

Factoring the constant sin(u) from the integral
on the right-hand side, and regrouping terms on
both sides of the equation,
| | ( ) | |
}
=
A
R C
dA y y y A y u u sin ) sin(
| | ( ) | |
}
=
A
R C
dA y Ay y
2
sin ) sin( u u
Divide through by sin(u) and solve for the y-
coordinate of the resultant pressure force, y
R
,


By definition, the numerator on the right-hand
side of the equation is the second moment of the
area or moment of inertia, I
x
, about the x-axis.
A y
dA y
y
C
A
R
}
=
2
Substituting I
x
for the integral in the numerator on
the right,




Apply the Parallel Axis Theorem from Statics
the moment of inertia about the x-axis equals the
moment of inertia about a parallel axis passing
through the centroid of the area plus the product
of the total area times the square of the y-
coordinate of the centroid:
A y
I
y
C
x
R
=
2
C xC x
Ay I I + =
Now, substituting for I
x
in the numerator on the
right-hand side of the equation for y
R
:


Finally, simplifying the right-hand side,
A y
Ay I
y
C
C xC
R
2
+
=
C
C
xC
R
y
A y
I
y + =
Equation (2.19), p. 61
Equations for computing moments of inertia, I
xC

and I
yC
, with respect to orthogonal axes passing
through the centroid of common geometric
shapes are illustrated in Figure 2.18, p. 62, as
shown above.
The x-coordinate, x
R
, of the pressure center for
the resultant pressure force can be determined
by summation of moments around the y-axis:

Since,
Similarly,
}
=
A
R R
xdF x F
| | ( ) | |A y F A h F
C R C R
u sin = =
( )dA y dF u sin =
Substituting for F and dF yields,

Factoring the constant sin(u) from the integral
on the right-hand side, and regrouping terms on
both sides of the equation,
| | ( ) | |
}
=
A
R C
dA y x x A y u u sin ) sin(
| | ( ) | |
}
=
A
R C
xydA Ax y u u sin ) sin(
Divide through by sin(u) and solve for the x-
coordinate of the resultant pressure force, x
R
,


By definition, the numerator on the right-hand
side of the equation is the product of inertia, I
xy
,
with respect to the x and y-axes.
A y
xydA
x
C
A
R
}
=
Substituting I
xy
for the integral in the numerator on
the right:



Apply the Parallel Axis Theorem from Statics
the product of inertia with respect to xy-axes
equals the product of inertia about a parallel set of
orthogonal axes passing through the centroid of the
area plus the product of the total area times the x-
and y-coordinates of the centroid:
A y
I
x
C
xy
R
=
C C xyC xy
y Ax I I + =
Now, substituting for I
xy
in the numerator on the
right-hand side of the equation for x
R
,

Finally, simplifying the right-hand side:
C
C
xyC
R
x
A y
I
x + =
Equation (2.20), p. 62
A y
y Ax I
x
C
C C xyC
R
+
=
Equations for computing products of inertia with
respect to xy-axes passing through the centroid
of common geometric shapes are illustrated in
Figure 2.18, p. 62, as shown above.
Pressure Prism
A scaled, graphical representation of pressure, p,
acting on submerged surfaces is sometimes useful,
especially for rectangular shapes. Consider a
rectangular planar surface of dimensions W L
having its y-axis inclined at an arbitrary angle u from
the horizontal, having an orthogonal p-axis normal to
the surface, and immersed in a liquid having a free
surface as illustrated in Figure 2.21, p. 66:
Figure 2.21, p. 66 Modified
y
p
L
W = dimension into
the page, parallel
to the x-axis
A 3-dimensional pressure prism is created in xyp-
coordinate space by scaling the height to a surface
located above the xy-plane proportionally to the
pressure. Pressure prisms have the following
properties:
1. The magnitude of the resultant pressure force
equals the volume, , of the prism. For
rectangular shapes as in Figure 2.21, p. 66;

Rearranging,
V
( )LW h h V
1 2
2 1 + =
Since F
R
= h
C
A, this proves that
2. Resultant pressure force acts through the
centroid of the prism. For rectangular shapes, as
in Figure 2.21, p. 66; (i) y
C
is located a distance
L/3 up from the bottom of the surface, and (ii)
x
C
is centrally located a distance W/2 from either
side of the surface due to symmetry.
( )
LW
h h
V
2
1 2
+
=
h
C
A

R
F V =
2
b
2
b
C
C = Centroid of the Planar Area
CP = Center of Pressure
These properties are further illustrated for a vertical,
rectangular tank wall in Figure 2.19, p. 65Modified:
2
h
2
h
Pressure prisms are not generally recommended
for non-rectangular shapes because the
centroidal coordinates for other geometries may
be unknown and difficult to determine.
Refer to Handout II.C. Hydrostatic Forces on
Plane Surfaces Example Problem.
Homework No. 6 Hydrostatic pressure forces
on submerged planar surfaces.