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Fluid Mechanics I (MDB2013)

Chapter 5
Dimensional Analysis, Similitude, and Modeling
Lecturer: Dr Shiferaw R. Jufar
Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS, Bandar Seri Iskandar, 32610 Tronoh,
Perak, Malaysia | Tel: +605 368 7045 | Fax: +605 365 5670
e-mail : shiferaw.jufar@petronas.com.my

Course Objectives
1. Understand concepts and behavior of fluids in static
and flowing condition.
2. Understand the concept and applications of control
3. Apply the knowledge of dimensional analysis.
4. Apply the concepts to the design of simple system
involving fluid.

Learning objectives
o Apply the knowledge of dimensional analysis in
solving complex engineering problems.
o After completing this chapter, you should be able to:
apply the Buckingham pi theorem.
develop a set of dimensionless variables for a given
flow situation.
discuss the use of dimensionless variables in data
apply the concepts of modeling and similitude to
develop prediction equations.

o Dimensional Analysis
o Units and Dimensions
o Synthesis of Experimental Data
o Buckingham Pi Theorem

o Determination of Pi Terms
o Correlation of Experimental Data

Dimensional Analysis
o Dimensional analysis is a powerful means in the design,
the ordering, the performance and the analysis of
experiment and also the synthesis of the resulting data.
o The great majority of experiment requires methods of
measurement that use numerical scales from both
defined units and dimensions.
o Rare exceptions to this are, for example, botany and
anatomy where classification can be in terms of graphical
descriptions of shape and colour though even here some
measure of size is commonly used.
o Measurement is used as a basis of science and
engineering and hence of dimensional analysis.

Units and Dimensions, contd

In physical science a first essential step in the direction of
learning any subject, is to find principles of numerical reckoning,
and methods for practicably measuring, some quality connected
with it. I often say that when you can measure what you are
speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something
about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot
express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and
unsatisfactory kind: it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you
have scarcely, in your thought, advanced to the stage of science,
whatever the matter may be.

Kelvin, 1883

Units and Dimensions, contd

o Addition of physical quantities is only meaningful
when both the dimensions and the units are identical.
There is no useful meaning in adding a length to a
force; equally, nor is there in adding acres directly to
o It follows that an equality is under the same
restrictions. This principle, though simple, is the
foundation of the development of dimensional
o It is the first stage in the logic of this subject: it is the
primary statement as being an acceptable affirmation
from it being self evident. Thus it forms the basic
premiss for the present work.

Dimensional System
Table 1: Symbols of Dimensions

Dimensional System, contd

Table 2: Dimensions of physical quantities

Dimensional System, contd

Table 3: Dimensions in the calculus

Where the symbol

means dimensionally equal to

Buckingham Pi Theorem
o If an equation involving k variables is dimensionally
homogeneous, it can be reduced to a relationship
among k r independent dimensionless products,
where r is the minimum number of reference
dimensions required to describe the variables.

Determination of the Pi Terms

o Step 1:
o List all variables that are involved in the problem
Expermienters knowledge of the problem
The physical laws that govern the phenomenon
Typically the variables will include those that are
necessary to describe the:
Geometry of the system (D, l)
Fluid (material) properties (, )
External effects that influence the system (Pl)

Determination of the Pi Terms contd

o Step 2:
o Express each of the variables in terms of basic

Determination of the Pi Terms contd

o Step 3:
o Determine the required number of pi terms
Buckingham Pi Theorem
Determine number of pi terms is equal to k r where
k=5 is the number of variables in the problem and r=3
is the number of basic dimensions required to
describe these variables then according to the pi
theorem (5 3 = 2) there will be or two pi terms

Determination of the Pi Terms contd

o Step 4:
o Select a number of repeating variables, where the
number required is equal to the number of
reference dimensions
Select from the original list of variables several of
which can be combined with each of the remaining
variables to form a Pi term
The dependent variable should appear in only one Pi
Thus do not choose the dependent variable as one of
the repeating variables, since the repeating variables
will generally appear in more than one pi term.

Determination of the Pi Terms contd

o Step 5:
o Form a pi term by multiplying one of the
nonrepeating variables by the product of the
repeating variables, each raised to an exponent
that will make the combination dimensionless
The Pi term will be of the form:

(ui )(u1)a(u2)b(u3)c
Where: ui is one of the nonrepeating variables
u1, u2, and u3 are the repeating variables

Determination of the Pi Terms contd

o Step 6:
o Repeat Step 5 for each of the remaining
nonrepeating variables
o Step 7:
o Check all the resulting pi terms to make sure they
are dimensionless.

o Step 7:
o Express the final form as a relationship among
the pi terms, and think about what it means

Determination of the Pi Terms contd

o Example 1:
The steady flow of an incompressible Newtonian fluid
through a long, smooth-walled, horizontal circular pipe.
The pressure drop per unit length, pl along the pipe
as illustrated in the figure. Determine a suitable set of
Pi terms to study this problem experimentally.

Determination of the Pi Terms contd

o Step 1:
List all of the variables
pl= pressure drop per unit length
D= pipe diameter
= fluid density
= viscosity
V =velocity

o Step 2:

Express all the variables in terms of basic dimensions

Using F, L, and T or M, L, and T as basic dimensions

Determination of the Pi Terms contd

o Step 3:
Determine the number of Pi terms required which are equal
to k r where k = 5 is the number of variables in the
problem and r = 3 is the number of basic dimensions
required to describe these variables then according to the pi
theorem (5 3 = 2) there will be or two Pi terms required.

o Step 4
Select a number of repeating variables, equal to the
number of basic dimensions
repeating variables need to be selected from the list pl, D,
, , V. Those are D, V, , because these are
dimensionally independent
D is a length,
V involves both length and time, and
involves force, length, and time

L and T
L, T and F.

Determination of the Pi Terms contd

o Step 5:
Form the Pi terms by combining the dependent
variable with the repeating variables.

Since this combination is dimensionless, it follows that:

Since the resulting combination is dimensionless, we

can write:

Determination of the Pi Terms contd

The solution to the above system of algebraic
equations gives the desired values of a, b and c.
a = 1, b = -2, c = -1

and, therefore:

o Step 6:
The process is now repeated for the remaining
nonrepeating variables. In this example there is only
one additional variable () so that:

Determination of the Pi Terms contd

and, therefore:

Solving these equations simultaneously it follows that:

a = -1, b = -1, c = -1

So that,

Determination of the Pi Terms contd

o Step 7:
Check to make sure the Pi terms are actually

or alternatively,


Determination of the Pi Terms contd

o Note that dimensional analysis will not provide the form of
the functional relation between the Pi terms. This can only
be obtained from a suitable set of experiments.
o If desired, the Pi terms can be rearranged; that is,
reciprocal of /DV could be used and, of course, the
order in which we write the variables can be changed.
Thus, for example, 2 could be expressed as:

Determination of the Pi Terms contd

o Step 8:
Express the relationship between the Pi terms, i.e. 1 and
2 as:

o The dimensionless product DV/ is a very famous

one in fluid mechanics the Reynolds number.

Determination of the Pi Terms contd

o Example 2
Flow past a flat plate. See Example 7.1 pp354

A thin rectangular plate having a

width w and a height h is located
so that it is normal to a moving
stream of fluid as shown in Fig.
Assume the drag, D, that the fluid
exerts on the plate is a function of
w and h, the fluid viscosity and
density, and , respectively, and the
velocity V of the fluid approaching
the plate. Determine a suitable set
of pi terms to study this problem

Determination of the Pi Terms contd

Determination of the Pi Terms contd

Number of Pi terms
Three repeating variables selected are w, V,
it would be incorrect to use both w and h as
repeating variables since they have the same
The 1st pi term can be formed by combining D
with the repeating variables such that

Determination of the Pi Terms contd

Determination of the Pi Terms contd

Determination of the Pi Terms contd

Determination of the Pi Terms contd

Some comments about Dimensional Analysis

o There are also other methods in dimensional
analysis but the method of repeating variables is the
o There is not a unique set of Pi terms which arises
from a dimensional analysis. However, the required
number of pi terms is fixed.
o Typically, in fluid mechanics, the required number of
reference dimensions is three, but in some problems
only one or two are required.

Common Dimensionless Groups in Fluid Mechanics

Common Dimensionless Groups in Fluid Mechanics

o Re no. can only be neglected in flow regions away

from high-velocity gradients, e.g. away from the solid
surface, jets, or wakes.
o Eu no. is only important when the pressure drops low
enough to cause vapor formation (cavitation) in a
o Fr no. is totally unimportant if there is no free surface.
o We no. is important only if it is of order of unity or
less, which typically occurs when the surface
curvature is comparable in size to the liquid depth,
e.g. in droplets, capillary flows, ripple waves, and
very small hydraulic models.

Correlation of Experimental Data

o As noted previously, a dimensional analysis cannot
provide a complete answer to any given problem, since
the analysis only provides the dimensionless groups
describing the phenomenon, and not the specific
relationship among the groups.
o To determine this relationship, suitable experimental data
must be obtained.
o As the number of required pi terms increases, it becomes
more difficult to display the results in a convenient
graphical form and to determine a specific empirical
equation that describes the phenomenon.

Correlation of Experimental Data

o Make use of the data given below to obtain a general
relationship between the pressure drop per unit
length and the other variables.

Correlation of Experimental Data

Correlation of Experimental Data

o For problems involving more than two or three Pi
terms, it is often necessary to use a model to predict
specific characteristics

The graphical presentation of data for problems involving

three pi terms.

Correlation of Experimental Data

o It may also be possible to determine a suitable empirical
equation relating the three pi terms.
o However, as the number of pi terms continues to
increase, corresponding to an increase in the general
complexity of the problem of interest, both the graphical
presentation and the determination of a suitable empirical
equation become intractable.
o For these more complicated problems, it is often more
feasible to use models to predict specific characteristics
of the system rather than to try to develop general

Modeling and Similitude

o A model is a representation of a physical system that
may be used to predict the behavior of the system in
some desired respect.
o The physical system for which the predictions are to be
made is called the prototype.

Modeling and Similitude (Contd)

o Model Design Conditions (Similarity Requirements or
Modeling Law)
To achieve similarity between model and prototype
behavior, all the corresponding pi terms must be
equated between model and prototype

1m 2m , 3m ,
2m 2p
3m 3p

Geometric Similarity

Dynamic Similarity
Kinematic Similarity

Modeling and Similitude (Contd)

o Example:

Modeling and Similitude (Contd)

Geometric Similarity
A model and prototype are geometrically similar if an only if all body
dimensions in all three coordinates have the same linear-scale ratio.
All angles are preserved in geometric similarity.
All flow directions are preserved.
The orientations of model and prototype with respect to the
surroundings must be identical.

Modeling and Similitude (Contd)

Kinematic Similarity
Velocities are related to the full scale by a constant scale factor. They
also have the same directions as in the full scale.

Modeling and Similitude (Contd)

Dynamic Similarity
Forces are related to full scale by a constant factor. Also requires
geometric and kinematic similarity.

Modeling and Similitude (Contd)

A long structural component of a bridge has an elliptical cross section
shown in figure. It is known that when a steady wind blows past this type
of bluff body, vortices may develop on the downwind side that are shed
in a regular fashion at some definite frequency. Since these vortices can
create harmful periodic forces acting on the structure, it is important to
determine the shedding frequency. For the specific structure of interest,
D= 0.1 m, H = 0.3 m, and a representative wind velocity is 50 km/hr.
Standard air can be assumed. The shedding frequency is to be
determined through the use of a small-scale model that is to be tested in
a water tunnel. For the model and the water temperature is Dm = 20 mm
and the water temperature is 20 C.
Determine the model dimension, Hm,and the velocity at which the test
should be performed. If the shedding frequency for the model is found to
be 49.9 Hz, what is the corresponding frequency for the prototype?

Strouhal number = f (geometric parameter D/H and Reynolds number)

First Similarity Requirement

To maintain similarity between model and prototype

From the first similarity requirement

Second Similarity Requirement

This is a reasonable velocity that could be readily achieved in

a water tunnel. With the two similarity requirements satisfied,
it follows that the Strouhal numbers for prototype and model
will be the same so that

Example 5
The drag, D, on a sphere located in a pipe through which a fluid is
flowing is to be determined experimentally. Assume that the drag is a
function of the sphere diameter, d, the pipe diameter, D, the fluid velocity,
V, and the fluid density,
(a) What dimensionless parameters would you use for this problem?
(b) Some experiments using water indicate that for d=0.5cm, D=1.3
cm, and V= 0.6m/s, the drag 0.0067N. If possible,
estimate the drag on a sphere located in a 0.6m diameter pipe
through which water is flowing with a velocity of 1.8 m/s. The sphere
diameter is such that geometric similarity is maintained. If it is not
possible, explain why not.

Solution in the class room

D = f (d, D, V, )
In terms of F L T
V = LT-1
= F T2L-4
Number of Pi () terms
5-3=2 pi terms

Number of repeating variables

d, V,

1st Pi term

1= D da Vb c
(F) (L)a (LT-1)b (FT2L-4)c = Fo LoTo

For (F)
For (L)

1+c = 0
a + b - 4c = 0

For (T)

-b + 2c = 0

c = -1
-b + 2 (-1) = 0

b = -2
a + b - 4c = 0
a + (-2) 4(-1) = 0

a = -2


a b c values in 1st pi term

There for 1= d-2V-2-1

Similarly for 2nd pi term

(L) (L)a (LT-1)b (FT2L-4)c = FoLoTo
For (F)
For (L)
For (T)

1 + a + b - 4c = 0
-b + 2c = 0


-b + 2 (0) = 0

1 + a + b - 4c = 0
1 + a + (0) -4(0) = 0
a = -1


1 = f (2)

Continued in the class

Modeling and Similitude (cont.)

Distorted Models
o Models for which one or more of the similarity requirements are not
satisfied are called distorted models.
o Distorted models are rather commonplace, and they can arise for a
variety of reasons, i.e. perhaps a suitable fluid cannot be found for
the model
o Distorted models can be successfully used but the interpretation of
the results obtained with this type of model is obviously more difficult
than the interpretation of results obtained with true models for which
all the requirements are met.
o Models involving high-speed flows are often distorted w.r.t Re number
similarity but Ma number similarity is maintained.

End of Chapter 5
Thank you!
Q and A