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The Pitoot tube (nam med after Henri

H Pitot inn 1732) meaasures a fluiid velocity bby converting the
kinetic energy of thhe flow into o potential eenergy. Thee conversionn takes placee at the stag
point, llocated at thhe Pitot tubee entrance ( see the scheematic below). A presssure higher than
t the
free-streeam (i.e. dyynamic) pressure resultts from the kinematic
k to
o potential cconversion. This
"static" pressure is measured by b comparinng it to the flow's dynaamic pressurre with a
differenntial manom meter.

Crosss-section off a Typical Pitot Staticc Tube

Convertting the resuulting differrential presssure measurrement into a fluid veloocity depen
nds on
the partticular fluidd flow regim
me the Pitot tube is meaasuring. Speecifically, onne must dettermine
whetherr the fluid regime is inccompressiblle, subsonicc compressible, or supeersonic.

pressible Fllow

A flow can be conssidered inco ompressiblee if its veloccity is less th

han 30% off its sonic veelocity.
For such a fluid, thhe Bernoullii equation ddescribes thee relationship between the velocity y and
pressuree along a strreamline,
Evaluatted at two different
d points along a streamline,, the Bernou
ulli equationn yields,

If z1 = z2 and point 2 is a stagn

nation pointt, i.e., v2 = 0,
0 the above equation reeduces to,

The vellocity of thee flow can hence

h be obttained,

or moree specificallly,

nic Compreessible Flow

For floww velocitiess greater thaan 30% of thhe sonic vellocity, the fluid
f must bee treated as
compreessible. In coompressiblee flow theorry, one must work with h the Mach number M, M
definedd as the ratioo of the flow
w velocity v to the sonic velocity c,

When a Pitot tube is exposed to t a subsonnic compresssible flow (0 0.3 < M < 11), fluid trav
along thhe streamlinne that ends on the Pitoot tube's stag
gnation poin
nt is continuuously commpressed.
If we asssume that the
t flow deccelerated annd compresssed from thee free-stream
m state
isentroppically, the velocity-pre
v essure relatiionship for the Pitot tub
be is,

where  is the ratioo of specificc heat at connstant pressu

ure to the sp
pecific heatt at constantt

If the frree-stream density

d statiic is not avaiilable, then one can sollve for the M
Mach numb
ber of
the floww instead,


is the sppeed of sounnd (i.e. soniic velocity),, R is the gaas constant, and T is thee free-stream
m static

Supersonic Comp
pressible Fllow

For suppersonic flow

w (M > 1), the
t streamliine terminatting at the Pitot
P tube's sstagnation point
crosses the bow shhock in frontt of the Pitoot tube. Fluiid traveling along this sstreamline is first
deceleraated nonisenntropically to a subsonnic speed an nd then deceelerated isenntropically to
t zero
velocityy at the staggnation poin

The flow
w velocity is
i an impliccit function of the Pitot tube pressu

Note thhat this form

mula is validd only for Reeynolds num mbers R > 400
4 (using ththe probe diiameter
as the ccharacteristic length). Below
B that liimit, the iseentropic assumption breeaks down.