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Basic Course of Thermo-Fluid Analysis 7

Chapter 3 Basics of Flow IV

3.2.2 Steady state and transient state

Consider the situation where water is poured into a container which has an outlet part on the
side of the container as shown in Figure 3.12. At first when the water level is below the outlet, the
water level in the container rises with time as shown in (a). However, when the water level reaches
a certain height, the amount of water entering the tank and the amount of discharged water are
balanced and the water level remains constant (See [b]).

Figure 3.12: Water level change

When the state of the system changes with time, this is called the transient state as shown in [a].
On the other hand, when the state is constant with time, this is called the steady state. You must
In a steady-state analysis, only a steady-state solution is obtained. The analysis cannot predict
how the process achieved the steady-state condition. If the thermo-fluid analysis is terminated
before the analysis reaches the steady-state solution, the result does not have any physical meaning.
On the other hand, a transient analysis accurately calculates the system conditions as it changes
with time. Therefore, the transient analysis calculates the time variation of a phenomenon. If the
transient analysis is permitted to run for a long enough time, the steady-state solution will
eventually be obtained. The steady-state solution will generally be obtained by using a steady-state

analysis much faster than transient analysis. Therefore, if the steady-state solution is all that is
needed, the calculations should be performed as a steady-state analysis.

3.2.3 Bernoulli's theory

When the fluid density is designated by the Greek symbol (rho) and fluid velocity by the letter
, the unit for 2/2 is the same as that for pressure. This expression represents the kinetic energy
of a fluid and is called the dynamic pressure. In contrast, a force such as atmospheric pressure that
acts on the system is called the static pressure. The sum of the dynamic and static pressures is called
the total pressure. Imagine a fluid does not have any viscosity and its volume does not change.
This fluid is called an ideal fluid. When the flow of an ideal fluid does not change with time, its total
pressure is constant. This is called Bernoulli's theory and expresses the fluid energy conservation
law. In a real flow, energy is lost due to viscosity and the total pressure decreases in the flow
Consider the flow at cross-sections A and B in Figure 3.13. For an ideal fluid, the total pressure at
the two cross-sections is the same as explained by Bernoullis theory. At cross-section A, where the
area is larger, the flow velocity is lower compared to the flow velocity at cross-section B. The total
mass flow is constant. Therefore, the dynamic pressure at cross-section A < dynamic pressure at
cross-section B. In turn, the static pressure at cross-section A > static pressure at cross-section B
since the total pressure is constant.

Figure 3.13: Bernoullis theory


A simple experiment can illustrate the Bernoulli theory. Consider two balloons as shown in Figure
3.14. Strongly blow in the space between the balloons. The balloons will come together and may
even contact each other. According to Bernoullis theory, the balloons come together because the
static pressure decreases when the velocity increases.

Figure 3.14: Experiment using balloons


Basic Course of Thermo-Fluid Analysis 8

Chapter 3 Basics of Flow V

3.2.4 Laminar flow and turbulent flow

A flow has two states: laminar and turbulent. A flow with regular, predictable motion is called
laminar flow. On the other hand, a flow with irregular, unpredictable motion is called turbulent
Consider water running from a tap to illustrate the two states. When the tap is turned on just a small
amount, water flows straight down in a very well-behaved and predictable stream as shown in (a)
of Figure 3.15. The more the flow increases the more turbulent the water flow becomes. The surface
of the water creates waves as shown in (b).

Figure 3.15: Water running from a tap

In 1883, a British scientist named Osborne Reynolds (1842-1912) classified flows as either laminar
or turbulent from a series of experiments known as the Reynolds experiment. In the experiment,
flows were visualized by pouring a stream of ink into a pipe in which water flows. The result showed
that, when the water velocity was low, the ink moved downstream in a continuous straight line as
shown in (a) of Figure 3.16. In this case, the flow was laminar. However, when the water velocity
was high, the ink started in a straight line but began oscillating and quickly dispersed throughout
the pipe. This flow was turbulent.


Figure 3.16: Reynolds experiment

In the experiment, Reynolds discovered a dimensionless number could be used to classify flows
as either laminar or turbulent. This number is called the Reynolds number. The Reynolds number
Re is defined by the following equation:

L: Characteristic length
(In this example, L is the inside diameter of the pipe)

U: Representative velocity
(Here, it is the average velocity of the flow passing through a cross-section of the pipe)

: Fluid density
: Fluid viscosity

The denominator of the equation expresses the viscous force of the fluid. The numerator of the
equation expresses the inertial force. Hence, the Reynolds number is the ratio of the inertial force
to the viscous force. When two flows are geometrically similar and have the same Reynolds number,
this means their ratio between their inertial forces and their viscous forces will be the same. Thus,
the behavior of the two flows will be essentially the same. This law is called the Reynolds' law of

Consider another example. Suppose you want to simulate the air flow around an automobile
moving at a speed of 50 km/h by using a half-size model in a wind tunnel as shown in Figure 3.17.
The equation for the Reynolds number says the air velocity should be 100 km/h since the
characteristic length has been cut in half to maintain a constant Reynolds number.

Figure 3.17: Reynolds' law of similarity

A closer look at the Reynolds number reveals the following: When the fluid viscosity is large or
the fluid velocity is low, the viscous force becomes dominant. When this occurs, the Reynolds
number will be small and the fluid flow will be laminar. On the other hand, when the fluid viscosity
is small or the velocity is high, the inertial force becomes dominant. Thus, the Reynolds number of
the fluid will be large and the fluid flow will be turbulent.

The range of Reynolds number for the transition from laminar to turbulent flow in a pipe is
generally 2,000 to 4,000. These values are just approximated and the actual values will vary
depending on the state or conditions of the flow.


In this final example, we can determine whether the air flow around a bicyclist is laminar or
turbulent. Figure 3.18 shows the air flow around a bicyclist traveling at 14.4 km/h.

Figure 3.18: Person riding on a bicycle

The Reynolds number is calculated using the following equation for the flow of air.

The calculated value for the Reynolds number is 400,000, far greater than the aforementioned
approximate value of 2,000 - 4,000 denoting the conditions when the flow transitions from laminar
to turbulent. We find that the majority of flows observed in our daily lives is turbulent.
A turbulent flow can be either an advantage or disadvantage. A turbulent flow increases the
amount of air resistance and noise; however, a turbulent flow also accelerates heat conduction and
thermal mixing. Therefore, understanding, handling, and controlling turbulent flows can be crucial
for successful product design.