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Experimental Study of Viscosity and the Wall-Effect Correction

James Yu

Cornell University
Ithaca, New York 14853

April 6, 2003


The Dinsdale & Moore wall-effect correction[1] for the falling sphere viscosity experiments
has been generally accepted for many years. However, Schottenheimer’s model[2] predicts a
new expression for fluids with viscosity between 1 and 20 poise. In this experimental study,
spheres of various radii and densities are dropped into a glycerine filled viscometer, and
apparent viscosity measurements are recorded. When the two models are compared, Schot-
tenheimer’s expression fits the data more accurately than Dinsdale & Moore’s expression.

A simple way to measure viscosity is with the falling sphere technique[3]. The apparent viscosity of the fluid
is related to the achieved terminal velocity of a ball falling freely in a fluid, and this can be measured using a
viscometer. However, this measured viscometer is only an apparent viscosity, since the wall of the container
will affect the movement of the sphere. In this experiment, the two wall-effect correcting expressions from
Dinsdale & Moore and Schottenheimer are compared for accuracy with glycerine.

A viscometer is a fluid filled cylinder with pairs of optical sensors mounted on the sides of the cylinder. The
goal is to measure the terminal velocity Vt of a ball dropped into the fluid. An optical sensor detects when
the ball blocks the light beam, and the time ∆T that the ball takes to traverse between optical sensors can
be measured. The velocity of the ball is then determined between each pair of optical sensors.

In this experiment there are four sensors, and it is assumed that the ball reaches terminal velocity by the
time it drops between the second and third sensor. Balls of varying radii and densities are dropped into the
viscometer, and the resulting velocities are recorded for further analysis.

From the measurement of Vt the apparent viscosity

r mb g − 34 πr3 ρg
µ( )= (1)
R 6πVt r
where mb is the mass of the ball, ρ is the density of the fluid, r is the radius of the ball , and g is the
acceleration due to gravity. To obtain mb , calipers were used to measure the diameter of the ball. Then it
is known that mb = 43 πr3 ρb , where ρb is the density of the ball.

The apparent viscosity varies with the radius of the ball r and the radius of the cylinder R. In order to find
the true viscosity µ0 , an expression must be formulated to relate µ( Rr ) with µ0 . Dinsdale & Moore gives the
r µ0
µ( ) = (2)
R 1 − 2.104( R ) + 2.09( Rr )3 − 0.95( Rr )5

while Schottenheimer claims[2]
r r
) = µ0 ek R
µ( (3)
for fluids with viscosity 1 to 20 poise, where k is 3.8.

In order to compare the accuracy of these two expressions, the viscosity data points are plotted along with
the expressions. However, a best fit for the Schottenheimer parameter k must first be found in order to gauge
how close the data fit his calculated value of 3.8. In order to find this, an estimate of the value for µ0 is
obtained by averaging the two calculated µ0 from (2) and (3) for the smallest ball at r = 0.125 inches (using
the value of k = 3.8). This is reasonable since the wall effect should be almost negligible for the smallest
ball; this is also seen through the fact that the two formulas converge for small values of Rr . Through this,
an estimate of µ0 = 6.24 poise.

Taking the natural log of (3)

r r
ln µ(
) = ln(µ0 ) + k (4)
and a best fit of the measurements yi = ln(µ( Rr )i ) is obtained by minimizing the sum of squares residuals
SS = yi − A − Bxi (5)

where A = ln(µ0 ), B = k, xi = rRi , and n is the number of measurements. Taking the partial derivative with
respect to B and setting it equal to zero minimizes the squared residuals
X n
=0= 2xi (A + Bxi − yi ) (6)
∂B i=1
⇒ ASx + BSxx = Sxy (7)
(Sxy − ASx )
⇒B=k= (8)
Pn 2
Pn Pn Pn
where Sxx = i=1 xi , Sx = i=1 xi , Sy = i=1 yi , Sxy = i=1 xi yi . Error propagation obtains the
squared uncertainties
∂B 2 (δyi )2
(∆B)2 = ( ) (9)
∂yi n
∂B xi
And since ∂yi = Sxx

x2i (∆ ln µ)2
(∆B)2 = (∆ ln µ)2 2
= (10)
i=1 xx
∆ ln µ
⇒ ∆B = ∆k = √ (11)
n (δyi )2
where ∆ ln µ = i=0 n is the rms deviation for the residuals.

Using equation (8) and (11) along with the viscosity data, the parameter k was determined to be

k = 3.61 ± 0.0683 (12)

Figure 1 displays a plot of µ( Rr )/µ0 versus r/R for the data, Dinsdale & Moore, and Schottenheimer ex-
pressions, using both the prescribed value k = 3.8 and the fitted value for k. It is seen that the two
Schottenheimer curves are fairly close to each other, and both fit the data better than the Dinsdale & Moore
curve. The fitted value for k agrees with Schottenheimer’s calculated value to within %4.91.


Schottenheimer with fitted k
Dinsdale & Moore
3.5 Schottenheimer with k=3.8
Apparent Viscosity / True Viscosity



0.05 0.1 0.15 0.2 0.25 0.3 0.35 0.4

Figure 1: Normalized Apparent Viscosity of Data, Dinsdale & Moore, and Schottenheimer Expressions
A comparison of the data against the wall-effect correcting expressions in question.

In conclusion, Schottenheimer’s exponential form of the wall-effect correcting expression did give rise to a
more accurate fit than the one given by Dinsdale & Moore. However, further investigation is needed to
determine whether or not the wall-effect correcting expression given by Schottenheimer is valid for all fluids
with viscosity within 1 and 20 poise, and not just for the case of glycerine.

The wall-effect correcting expressions need to be gauged against various fluids, ball radii, and cylinder radii.
Also, the experiments need to take into account the temperature, which viscosity is highly dependent on.
A suggestion would be to conduct the experiments with various fluids at various temperatures to determine
which expressions are best under these various conditions.


1. A. Dinsdale and F. Moore, Viscosity and its Measurement (Reinhold Publishing, Lon-
don, 1962), pp.47-50
2. M. Schottenheimer, Proceedings of the International Conference on Fluid Dynamics,
San Francisco, CA, March 2003.
3. T. Cool, Computerized Instrumentation Design: Applied and Engineering Physics 264
(School of Applied and Engineering Physics, Cornell University, Ithaca, 2003), pp.