What is Fluid Dynamics?

The study of the flow of gases and liquids, usually in and around solid surfaces, is known as fluid dynamics in physics and engineering. Fluid dynamics, for example, can be used to evaluate the movement of air through an airplane wing or the surface of a vehicle. It can also be used in ship design to increase the speed at which ships pass through water.

Understanding Fluid Dynamics

To understand this concept, scientists use both mathematical and experimental models and calculations. A wind tunnel is an enclosed space where air is forced to pass over a surface, such as a model of an airplane. Smoke is introduced into the airstream to allow the movement of air to be monitored and photographed.

The findings of wind tunnels and other physics experiments are often complex. Scientists today use fluid behaviour models and powerful computers to analyse and interpret data.

Fluid dynamics is generally divided into aerodynamics and hydrodynamics in physics. Aerodynamics is the study of how air flows through planes and vehicles in order to increase their motion speed over time. Hydrodynamics is the study of water movement in various environments such as pipes, open channels, ships, and underground. Fluid dynamic principles can be used to describe a wide variety of phenomena, including the flow of blood in blood vessels, the flight of geese in V-formation, and the behavior of underwater plants and animals, in addition to the more common examples.

Factors Influencing the Flow

The properties of the fluid, the direction of flow, and the shape of the solid surface all influence flow patterns in a gas or liquid. Viscosity, density, and compressibility are three properties that are particularly important. Viscosity is the resistance offered to the flow of a liquid. Water, for example, has a lower viscosity than honey, explaining why it flows more freely.

Both gases and liquids are compressible, but liquids are almost incompressible, which means they can’t be compressed into smaller amounts. In contrast to incompressible fluid flow patterns, compressible fluid flow patterns are more complicated and difficult to study. Air can be considered incompressible for all practical purposes at speeds less than around 220 miles per hour (350 kilometres per hour), which is lucky for car designers. Furthermore, the effects of temperature fluctuations on incompressible fluids may be ignored.

Laminar and Turbulent Flow

Laminar and turbulent flow patterns can be distinguished. Laminar flow is a streamlined flow in which a fluid travels in layers that do not mix. The flow takes the form of streamlines, which are smooth, straight lines. By slightly opening a water faucet until the flow is clear and natural, you can see this effect. The water will gradually become muddy and unpredictable if you keep turning the faucet. This is known as turbulent flow.

Mach Number

The Mach number is a fluid dynamics equation that compares the speed of sound in a fluid to the velocity of an object passing through it. For example, at 59°F (15°C), the speed of sound in air is approximately 760 miles per hour (340 meters per second). Consider a plane moving at 380 miles per hour (170 meters per second) just over the sea. The airplane’s Mach number would then be 380 miles per hour divided by 760 miles per hour (380 mph 760 mph), or 0.5.

Mach number is named after Ernst Mach (1838–1916). He excelled in the study of supersonic (faster than sound) flight. Since fluids flow in a variety of ways around an object, the Mach number is especially important in fluid dynamics. Shock waves, for example, are unable to “get out of the way” when an aircraft flies faster than the speed of sound. Shock waves are generated when an aircraft exceeds the speed of sound, resulting in the sonic booms heard.

Aircraft designers must consider variations in fluid behaviour at different Mach numbers when designing planes that take off and climb to altitude at subsonic (less than the speed of sound) speeds, then travel through the transonic (about equal to the speed of sound) region, and cruise at supersonic speeds.

Pros and Cons of Fluid Dynamics

The pros and cons of fluid dynamics are given below.


  • There is an option of analysing various problems whose experiments are extremely difficult and risky.
  • The techniques used to calculate fluid dynamics allow researchers to study a system under extreme conditions.
  • The amount of information available is virtually infinite.
  • The commodity is now more valuable. The ability to create various graphs helps you to better understand the functionality of the final product. This promotes the purchase of a new product.
  • The accuracy of the outcome is questioned, implying that in certain cases we will not be accurate.
  • To make calculus simpler, the phenomenon must be mathematically simplified. The result would be more accurate if the simplification was successful.
  • Turbulence, multiphase phenomena, and other difficult problems are described by a number of incomplete models.
  • The untrained consumer is susceptible to think that the computer’s performance is always right.


  • There are chances of getting a lot of numerical errors as the calculations are complex.


The applications of fluid dynamics or fluid mechanics are as follows:

  • Resistance and propulsion
  • Manoeuvrability
  • Seakeeping
  • Propeller design
  • Other applications like piping
  • Aeronautics
  • Automotive
  • Chemical engineering
  • Power generation
  • Oil and Gas industry
  • Turbomachinery

Common Mistakes

The majority of fluid dynamics problems are much too complex to be solved by simple calculations. Numerical errors, round-off errors, and truncation errors abound.

The rules and initial conditions for these simulations must be carefully established because the turbulent flow is nonlinear and unpredictable. Small modifications at the start can have a huge effect on the final outcome.

Splitting the volume into smaller regions and using smaller time measures will improve simulation accuracy, but this increases computation time. As a result, CFD can advance as computing power increases.


In physics, the conservation laws, specifically conservation of linear momentum, conservation of mass, and conservation of energy, are the fundamental axioms of fluid mechanics, also known as the First Law of Thermodynamics. These are based on classical mechanics but have been modified by quantum mechanics and general relativity that are based on time. The Reynolds transport theorem is used to express them.

Fluids are thought to obey the continuum assumption in addition to the previous hypotheses. Molecules collide with one another in fluids, and rigid objects collide with one another in solid objects. On the other hand, the continuous assumption means that flow is continuous rather than discrete. As a consequence, properties like density, strain, temperature, potential energy, and flow velocity are believed to be well-defined at infinitesimally small points in space and to vary continuously from one point to the next. The fact that the fluid is made up of discrete molecules is not taken into account.

The Navier–Stokes’s equations are the momentum equations for Newtonian and non-Newtonian fluids. They are a non-linear series of differential equations that describe the flow of a fluid (either steady flow or unsteady flow) whose stress depends linearly on flow velocity gradients and pressure for fluids that are sufficiently dense to be continuous, do not contain ionized species, and have flow velocities.

The no simplified equations are mainly used in computational fluid dynamics to find the volume flow rate or mass flow rate since they lack a general closed-form solution. The equations can be simplified in a number of ways to make them easier to solve. Some of the simplifications allow closed-form solutions to basic fluid dynamics problems.

In addition to the mass, momentum, and energy conservation equations, a thermodynamic equation of state that gives the pressure as a function of other thermodynamic variables is needed to fully explain the issue. This can be seen in the perfect gas equation of state:

P= ρ R a T M


P = Pressure

ρ = Density

T = Absolute temperature

 Ru = Gas constant

M = Molar mass

Context and Application

This topic is significant in the professional exams for both undergraduate and graduate courses, especially for

  • Bachelors in Technology (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Masters in Technology (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Bachelors in Technology (Civil Engineering)
  • Masters in Technology (Civil Engineering)
  • Bachelors in Science (Physics)
  • Masters in Science (Physics)

The below are the related concepts and their corresponding fields of application one should look at before going through the fluid dynamics as they may help you to get the concept clear.

  • Fluid mechanics used in aerodynamics, meteorology, geodynamics, hydraulic machinery and oceanography.
  • Fluid flow used in acoustics, aerodynamics, meteorology, geodynamics, hydraulic machinery and oceanography.
  • Reynolds number used in acoustics, aerodynamics, meteorology, hydraulic machinery and oceanography.
  • Fluid motion used in aerodynamics, meteorology, geodynamics, hydraulic machinery and oceanography.
  • Fluid statics used in hydraulic machinery.
  • Hypersonic flow used in aerodynamics.

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