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Hydrostatic Force on Plane Surfaces Hydrostatic Force on Curved Surfaces Buoyancy

Peyman Taheri

Hydrostatic forces on plane surface

Center of gravity: The center of mass also called the center of gravity (CG), or centroid, is a point in space (or inside the body) where the weight of a body acts as if it were concentrated there.

Bird toy showing center of gravity

Consider a tank, as shown below, filled with a liquid with specific weight . The bottom of the tank includes a flat part AB and an inclined part BC.

Hydrostatic pressure at surface AB is pAB = patm + H , then hydrostatic force on AB is

FAB = pAB dA = ( patm + H ) dA = ( patm + H ) AAB


where AAB is the area of the flat part of the tank bottom. In contrast to surface AB, on surface BC, pressure is not constant, because the surface is inclined and each point on this surface has a different h with respect to the liquid surface. Accordingly, pressure increases with h (see the pressure distribution in the figure). Similarly, hydrostatic force acting on surface BC reads,

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FBC = pBC dA = ( patm + h) dA = patm ABC + h dA



In the above integral h varies for each surface element dA on the plate. It can be shown that

h dA = h



Then Eq. (2) can be written as

FBC = ( patm + hCG ) ABC = pCG ABC

where pCG = patm + hCG is pressure at the centroid (center of gravity) of surface BC,


Note: Equation (4) shows that magnitude of the hydrostatic force on a surface of a submerged body only depends on pCG, i.e., pressure corresponding to the depth of the center of gravity, and not the shape, angle, or orientation of the body.

For inclined surfaces (for example, surface BC), the point of action for hydrostatic force is not the centroid, but a point called pressure center (PC) which is ALWAYS shifted towards the high pressure area (with respect to centroid). Consider a plate of arbitrary shape completely submerged in a liquid, as shown below. The centroid of the plate is shown by CG, which is chosen to be the origin of the coordinate system on the surface.

The position of center of pressure on the surface can be calculated from

xCP = sin I xy pCG A and yCP = sin I xx pCG A


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where I xy and I xx are area moment of inertia about the axis passing through the centroid.
I xx is the area moment of inertia of the plate area about its centroidal x axis, and always is a positive

value. The negative sign in Eq. (5) shows that yCP is below the centroid at a deeper level.

I xy is product of the inertia of the plate, and can be a negative or positive value. When the plane is
geometrically symmetric I xy = 0 , then xCP = 0 . For different geometries I xx and I xy are available,

Centroidal moments of inertia for various cross-sections

Gage pressure formulas: Most of the time the atmospheric pressure patm is neglected because it equally acts on both sides of the plate. In this case, according to Eq. (4) pressure is pCG = hCG and
F = hCG A xCP = I xy sin hCG A yCP = I xx sin hCG A


Hydrostatic force on curved surfaces

Consider an arbitrary curved surface as shown below. For comparison sake, a flat surface is shown as well. Free-body diagrams of the surfaces and column of the fluid above the surfaces are shown.

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Horizontal and vertical pressure forces on immersed surfaces

The difficulty of the force calculation on a curved surface is rooted in its geometry, i.e., finding its centroid (center of gravity) and center of pressure. The easiest way to calculate the pressure forces on a curved surface is to compute the horizontal and vertical forces separately. The horizontal force, FH equals the force on the plane area formed by the projection of the curved surface onto a vertical plane normal to the component.

The vertical force, FV equals to the weight of the entire column of fluid, both liquid and atmospheric above the curved surface. For the shown surface in the above sketches we can write,

FV = Wair + W1 + W2


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The same principals used to compute hydrostatic forces on surfaces can be applied to the net pressure force on a completely submerged or a floating volumes. The results are two laws of buoyancy discovered by Archimedes. Consider a cube with dimensions s, fully submerged in a fluid with the specific weight of . The hydrostatic forces on vertical surfaces of the cube cancel each other, and the net hydrostatic force is the difference between the force acting on the top and bottom surfaces,

Ftop = hs 2


Fbottom = (h + s) s 2

Fnet = Fbottom Ftop = (h + s) s 2 hs 2 = s 3 = V

where V is the volume of the cube, thus, V is the weight of the fluid displaced by the cube.

Archimedess first law: A body immersed in a fluid, experiences a vertical buoyant force equal to the weight of the fluid it displaces. Consider a body with an arbitrary shape, fully immersed in a fluid as shown below,

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Archimedes first law for buoyant force on a fully submerged body

To find the net vertical force (buoyant force), which is acting upward, Eq. (7) can be use,

FB = FV (2) + FV (1) = (fluid weight above surface 2) (fluid weight below surface1) = weight of the fluid equivalent to body volume For a vertical element of the body, as shown in sketch (b), we can write Eq. (9) in integral form,
FB =


body surface

( p2 p1 ) dAH = ( z2 z1 ) dAH = (body volume)


where z is measured from the bottom.

Note: This equation assumes that the body has a uniform specific weight. Note: For a fully submerged body, the buoyant force acts on the center of volume (which is the same as center of gravity (CG), if the body has a uniform density). The point through which FB acts is called the center of buoyancy, CB. Note: Both liquids and gases exert buoyant force on immersed bodies. Archimedess second law: A floating body displaces its own weight in the fluid in which it floats. Thus, in the case of a floating body, only a portion of the body is submerged, and Eq. (10) reads

FB = (volume of the body below the fluid surface)


Archimedes second law of buoyancy

Note: In equilibrium, the line of action for buoyant force in a floating body passes through the center of volume of the submerged volume (see the above figure). Example: Buoyancy force on a submerged object A spherical body has a diameter of 1.5 m, weighs 8.5 kN, and is anchored to the sea floor with a cable as

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is shown in the figure. Calculate the tension of the cable when the body is completely immersed; assume = 10.1 kN/m3 for sea-water.

[SOLUTION] The buoyant force FB is shown in the free-body-diagram where W is the weight of the body and T is the cable tension. At equilibrium state balance of forces reads,

T + W = FB
where V is the volume of the immersed body,


FB = V


1 V = d3 6


The cable tension then becomes,

T = 10.1 103 (N/m3 )


8.5 103 (N) = 9348.17[N]


Pressure Distribution in Rigid-body Motion

In rigid-body motion, all particles are in translation and/or rotation, and there is no relative motion between particles. In such a condition the force balance equation reads,

p = ( g a )


where a is the acceleration due to translation and/or acceleration, and g is the acceleration due to gravity. Remember that for a = 0, Eq. (15) equals to the well-known hydrostatic equation, i.e., p = g . Expanding Eq. (15) into its components gives,

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p p p j + k = [ (0 a x ) i + (0 0) j + ( g az )k ] i+ y z x where g = 0i + 0 j g k and a = ax i + 0 j + az k


where a is assumed to be in x-z plane, i.e., a y = 0 (as shown in the following sketch). The pressure gradient acts in the direction of g a , and lines of constant pressure (including the free surface, if any) are perpendicular to this direction, and thus are tilted at a downward angle (as shown in the figure).

Rigid-body translational motion of a fluid contained in a tank

The angle can be evaluated from,

= tan 1

ax g + az


The rate of increase of pressure in the direction g a is greater than in ordinary hydrostatics,
dp = G dS where
2 G = ax + ( g + az )2


Note: The results are independent of the size or shape of the container as long as the fluid is continuously connected throughout the container.

Rigid-body Rotation
Consider rotation of the fluid about the z-axis without any translation, see the below figure. The container is assumed to be rotating at a constant angular velocity for a long time. For rigid bodies in rotation it is appropriate to use cylindrical coordinate system (r , , z ) .

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Rigid-body rotational motion of a fluid contained in a tank

The angular velocity and position vectors are given by,

= k
And the acceleration is given by


r = r ir


a = r 2 i r
As marked in the above figure, Eq. (15) for the force balance becomes,
p = ( g a ) p p 2 2 i r + k = (0 + r ) i r + (0 0) i + ( g 0)k = r i r g k r z where g = 0 i r + 0 i g k and a = r 2 i r + 0 i + 0 k



The pressure field can be found by equating like components,

p = r2 r and p = g = z


After integration with respect to r and z, and applying boundary condition, p = p0 at (r , z ) = (0,0) , one finds p = p0 z + 1 2 2 r 2 (23)

The pressure is linear in z and parabolic in r. The constant pressure surfaces can be calculated using,
z= p0 p + r 22 = a b r2 2g


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The position of the free surface is found by conserving the volume of fluid. Since the volume of a paraboloidi is one-half the base area times its height, the still water level is exactly halfway between the high and low points of the free surface.

Determining the free-surface position for rotation of a cylinder of fluid about its axis. The center of the fluid drops an amount,
h / 2 = 2 R 2 / 4 g and edges rise an equal amount.

A paraboloid is a quadric surface with the general form of

z x2 y 2 in three-dimensional space. = + c a 2 b2

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