1. In most fluid flow phenomena (especially turbulent flow ) the
prediction can’t be made just based on analytical or numerical
modeling. Experimental studies are needed.
2. The best way to present the experimental results in the
dimensionless form.
3. If we can correctly identify the influencing factors in certain fluid
flow phenomena, dimensional analysis can help to reduce the
number experiment runs.
4. Dimensional analysis also useful for presenting in a compact way
the analytical solution or output from a computer model.
What is Dimensional Analysis?
Writing the basic differential equations in the dimensionless form
Expressing a group of parameters/variables as a dimensionless quotient.
Why do we need to do that?
Basic Dimension in Mechanics
Mass –
Length –
Time –
 
 
 
M
L
T
Fundamental dimensions:
 
is used around the quantity to denote the dimension
    
    
     
1
2
2
V L T
a L T
F M L T
÷
÷
÷
=
=
=
    
      
    
    
3
1 1
2
1 2
[ ]
v
M L
M L T
M T
E M L T
µ
µ
o
÷
÷ ÷
÷
÷ ÷
=
=
=
=
Velocity –
Acceleration –
Force –
Density –
Dynamic viscosity –
Surface tension –
Bulk modulus of elasticity –
Derived dimensions:
      
      
    
1 2
2 2
2 3
p M L T
W M L T
W M L T
÷ ÷
÷
÷
=
=
( =
¸ ¸
Pressure –
Work –
Power –
Dimensions of fluid properties:
Examples of complex fluid flow phenomena
2 2
2 2
2 2
2 2
0
u v
x y
u u p u u
u v
x y x
x y
v v p u u
u v g
x y x
x y
µ µ
µ µ µ
c c
+ =
c c
 
  c c c c c
+ = ÷ + + 


c c c
c c \ .
\ .
 
  c c c c c
+ = ÷ ÷ + + 


c c c
c c \ .
\ .
Sluice gate
Airfoil
Vortex shedding at tailing edge Hydraulic jump
Compute the unsteady lift and
drag force acting on the airfoil
Compute the height of the hydraulic
jump and downstream velocity
(1) (2)
0
u v
x y
c c
+ =
c c
2 2
2 2
u u p u u
u v
x y x
x y
µ µ
 
  c c c c c
+ = ÷ + +



c c c
c c \ .
\ .
2 2
2 2
v v p v v
u v g
x y y
x y
µ µ µ
 
  c c c c c
+ = ÷ ÷ + +



c c c
c c \ .
\ .
Steady two dimensional incompressible flow of Newtonian fluids
Continuity equation
Horizontal momentum
balance equation
Vertical momentum
balance equation
Consider as the reference length. It may be the length of the airfoil or height
of the upstream water level.
And consider as the reference velocity. It may be free stream velocity.
L
V
·
Nondimensionalizing the Basic Differential Equations
 (1)
 (2)
 (3)
* *
,
u v
u v
V V
· ·
= =
* *
,
x y
x y
L L
= =
*
2
p
p
V µ
·
=
and
Nondimensionalizing the variables:
Substituting these into Eqs (1) – (3)
* *
* *
0
u v
x y
c c
+ =
c c
Reynolds number Re
V L µ
µ
·
=
Froude number
Fr
V
gL
·
=
* * * 2 * 2 *
* *
* * * *2 *2
u u p u u
u v
V L
x y x x y
µ
µ
·
 
c c c c c
+ = ÷ + +


c c c c c
\ .
* * * 2 * 2 *
* *
* * 2 * *2 *2
v v gL p v v
u v
V L
x y V y x y
µ
µ
·
·
 
c c c c c
+ = ÷ ÷ + +


c c c c c
\ .
We need to establish the functional relation through experiment.
Drag (F) depends on four parameters diameter of sphere (D);
speed (V); fluid density (µ); fluid viscosity (µ)
( )
i.e. , , , F f D V µ µ =
Example of fluid flow phenomena:
Drag on a fully submerged sphere in air or water
( )
f
Suppose we repeat the experiments for 5 time for each variables, keeping
other variables fixed, then total 5
4
times we have to do the experiments
Any dimensionally consistent equation can be
expressed as i.e. there are only (nm)
independent variables are involved in the dimensionally consistent
equation.
Buckingham Pi Theorem
Given a set of n variables involving m dimensions, one
can construct (nm) distinct independent dimensions combinations
from . { }
1 2
, , ,
n m
t t t
÷
{ }
1 2
, , ,
n
x x x
( )
1 2
, ,
n
x f x x =
( )
1 2
, ,
n m
f t t t
÷
=
{ }
1 2
, , ,
n
x x x
Making of dimensionless groups of variables
Step 1  List all variables involved in the problem and count
the number n.
Step 2  Select a set of primary/fundamental dimensions
such as [M] [L] and [T].
Step 4  Select a set of r repeating dimensional parameters which
must includes all the primary/fundamental dimensions in the
problems. E.g are chosen.
Step 5 – Number of dimensionless groups is (nm). Write down
the ith dimensionless group
3
1 2 3
i i i
a b c
i i
x x x x t
+
=
Step 6 – Determine , so that { }
, ,
i i i
a b c
       
0 0 0
i
M L T t =
{ }
1 2 3
, , x x x
Step 3  List the dimensions of each variable according to [M]
[L] and [T]. Count the number of primary dimensions (m)
STEPS
Example: Drag on a Sphere
Step 1
The parameters which are involved for drag on a sphere,
F, V, D, µ, µ, and n = 5.
Step 2
[M] [L] and [T] are selected as the primary/fundamental dimensions
Step 3  List the dimensions:
 
 
 
 
 
F
D
V
µ
µ
   
 
  
  
    
2
1
3
1 1
M L T
L
L T
M L
M L T
÷
÷
÷
÷ ÷
=
=
=
=
=
Hence m = 3
1 1 1
1
a b c
D V F t µ =
Step 4 – Selecting V, D, µ as the 3 repeating dimensional parameters.
So r = m = 3
Step 5 – There are total nm=2 dimensionless groups.
Equating the exponents:
1
1 1 1
1
1 0
3 1 0
2 0
c
a b c
b
+ =
¹
¦
+ ÷ + =
`
¦
÷ ÷ =
)
1
2 2
F
V D
t
µ
=
Exponent of [M]:
Exponent of [L]:
Exponent of [T]:
1
1
1
2
2
1
a
b
c
= ÷
= ÷
= ÷
Solving these eqs
Thus we get the
1
st
dimensionless variable:
          
( )
  
( )
   
( )
1 1
1
0 0 0 1 3 2
b c
a
M L T L L T M L M L T
÷ ÷ ÷
¬ =
2 2 2
2
a b c
D V t µ µ =
2
2 1 1
1
1 0
3 1 0
1 0
c
a b c
b
+ =
¹
¦
+ ÷ ÷ =
`
¦
÷ ÷ =
)
2
1
Re VD
µ
t
µ
= =
According to Buckingham Pi Theorem
2
nd
dimensionless variable:
Equating the exponents:
Exponent of [M]:
Exponent of [L]:
Exponent of [T]:
2
2
2
1
1
1
a
b
c
= ÷
= ÷
= ÷
Solving these eqs
Thus we get the
( )
1 2
f t t =
2 2
or
F
f
VD
V D
µ
µ
µ
 
=

\ .
( )
Re
D
C f =
The coefficient of drag force ( ) as a function of Reynolds number ( )
Re
D
C
So we have to repeat the experiments for 5 different valued of Re only
          
( )
  
( )
    
( )
2 2
2
0 0 0 1 3 1 1
b c
a
M L T L L T M L M L T
÷ ÷ ÷ ÷
¬ =
Example of fluid flow phenomena:
Pressure drop in pipe flow
Step 1
The parameters which are involved for fluid flow in a
pipe, , V, D, L, µ, µ, and n = 7.
p A
Step 2
[M] [L] and [T] are selected as the primary/fundamental dimensions
c
The pressure drop ( ) depends on diameter of the pipe (D);
length of the pipe (L), speed (V ); fluid density (µ); fluid viscosity
(µ) and roughness height ( ).
p A
c
( )
i.e. , , , , , p f D L V µ µ c A =
L
, µ µ
V
D
c
Step 3  List the dimensions:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
p
D
L
V
µ
µ
c
V
    
 
 
  
  
    
 
1 2
1
3
1 1
M L T
L
L
L T
M L
M L T
L
÷ ÷
÷
÷
÷ ÷
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
Hence m = 3
Step 4 – Selecting V, D, µ as the 3 repeating dimensional parameters.
So r = m = 3
1 1 1
1
a b c
D V p t µ = A
Step 5 – There are total n – m = 4 dimensionless groups –.
1
st
dimensionless variable:
          
( )
  
( )
    
( )
1 1
1
0 0 0 1 3 1 2
b c
a
M L T L L T M L M L T
÷ ÷ ÷ ÷
¬ =
1
2
p
V
t
µ
A
= Thus we get the
2 2 2
2
a b c
D V t µ µ = 2
nd
dimensionless variable:
2
1
Re VD
µ
t
µ
¬ = =
3
rd
dimensionless variable:
3 3 3
3
a b c
D V L t µ =
3
L
D
t ¬ =
4
th
dimensionless variable:
4 4 4
4
a b c
D V t µ c =
4
D
c
t ¬ =
( )
1 2 3 4
, , f t t t t = According to Buckingham Pi Theorem
2
, ,
p L
f
VD D L
V
µ c
µ
µ
  A
=

\ .
Equating the exponents:
1
1 1 1
1
1 0
3 1 0
2 0
c
a b c
b
+ =
¹
¦
+ ÷ ÷ =
`
¦
÷ ÷ =
)
Exponent of [M]:
Exponent of [L]:
Exponent of [T]:
1
1
1
0
2
1
a
b
c
=
= ÷
= ÷
Solving these eqs
Lift on a wing
Step 1
The parameters which are involved for fluid flow in a
pipe, , L
c
, ,V, µ, µ, and n = 7.
L
F
Step 2
[M] [L] and [T] are selected as the primary/fundamental dimensions
v
E
The lift force ( ) depends on the cord length of the wing (L
c
),
angle of attack ( ) speed (V ); fluid density (µ); fluid viscosity (µ)
and bulk modulus of elasticity ( ) for compressible fluid.
L
F
v
E
( )
i.e. , , , , ,
L c v
F f L V E o µ µ =
o
o
L
F
V
, ,
v
E µ µ
c
L
o
Step 3  List the dimensions:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
L
c
v
F
L
V
E
o
µ
µ
   
 
 
  
  
    
    
2
1
3
1 1
1 2
1
M L T
L
L T
M L
M L T
M L T
÷
÷
÷
÷ ÷
÷ ÷
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
Hence m = 3
Step 4 – Selecting V, L
c
, µ as the 3 repeating dimensional parameters.
So r = m = 3
1 1 1
1
b c a
c L
L V F t µ =
Step 5 – There are total n – m = 4 dimensionless groups –.
1
st
dimensionless variable:
1
2 2
L
c
F
V L
t
µ
=
2 2 2
2
b c a
c
L V t µ µ = 2
nd
dimensionless variable:
2
1
Re
c
VL
µ
t
µ
¬ = =
3
rd
dimensionless variable:
3 3 3
3
b c a
c
L V t µ o =
3
t o ¬ =
4
th
dimensionless variable:
4 4 4
4
b c a
c v
L V E t µ =
2
4
2 2
1
Ma
v
E
c
V
V
t
µ
 
¬ = = =

\ .
( )
1 2 3 4
, , f t t t t = According to Buckingham Pi Theorem
2 2 2
, ,
v L
c
c
E F
f
VL
V L V
µ
o
µ
µ µ
 
=


\ .
          
( )
  
( )
    
( )
4 4
4
0 0 0 1 3 1 2
b c
a
M L T L L T M L M L T
÷ ÷ ÷ ÷
¬ =
4 4 4
0; 2; 1 a b c = = ÷ = ÷ Equating the exponents:
/
v
c E µ = is the speed of sound
and Ma is called Mach number
( )
or Re, , Ma
L
C f o =
Pressure in a soap bubble
outside
p
inside
p
o
o
R
The pressure difference ( ) depends on the radius of the
spherical bubble (R), and surface tension ( ).
p A
o
Step 1
The parameters which are involved for fluid flow in a
pipe, , R, and n = 3.
o
p A
Step 2
[M] [L] and [T] are selected as the primary/fundamental dimensions
Step 3  List the dimensions:
 
 
 
p
R
o
A
    
 
  
1 2
2
M L T
L
M T
÷ ÷
÷
=
=
=
Guess 1 : If we take m = 3, then n – m = 0
Step 4 – Selecting R, as the 2 repeating dimensional parameters.
So r = m = 2
1 1
1
a b
R p t o = A
Step 5 – There are total n – m = 1 dimensionless groups –.
1
st
dimensionless variable:
Guess 2 : If we take m = 2, then n – m = 1
o
          
( )
    
( )
1
1
0 0 0 2 1 2
b
a
M L T L M T M L T
÷ ÷ ÷
¬ =
1
pR
t
o
A
= Thus we get the
( )
1
1 Constant f t = = According to Buckingham Pi Theorem
Constant p
R
o
A =
Equating the exponents:
1
1
1
1 0
1 0
2 2 0
b
a
b
+ =
¹
¦
÷ =
`
¦
÷ ÷ =
)
Exponent of [M]:
Exponent of [L]:
Exponent of [T]:
1
1
1
1
a
b
=
= ÷
Solving these eqs
“Constant” can be determined by performing only one experiment
When a pebble is thrown in a large shallow water
tank, ripples are formed and disperse like concentric
circle. The wave speed (V) are likely to depend on
the depth of water in the tank (H), gravitational
acceleration (g), the kinetic energy of the pebble
before touching the water (E ), density ( ) of water,
surface tension at airwater interface ( )
o
µ
( )
i.e. , , , , V f H E g µ o =
Here n = 6 and r = m = 3.
1
Fr,
V
gH
t = =
2
4
,
E
H g
t
µ
=
2 2
3
2 2
Fr
We
V
gH
H g H V
o o
t
µ µ
= = =
Hence 3 dimensionless groups are
Ripples in water
2 2
or ,
E
V gH f
H H g
o
o µ
 
=


\ .
Weber number
Froude number
4 2
,
E
V gH f
H g H g
o
µ µ
 
=


\ .
Dimensionless number Definition Physical ratio of effects Importance
Reynolds number Always
Froude number Free surface flow
Mach number Compressible
fluid flow
Weber number Free surface flow
Cavitation number
(Euler number)
Cavitation
Strouhal number Oscillating flow
Drag coefficient Turbulent, rough
wall
Lift coefficient Aerodynamic,
hydrodynamic
Roughness coefficient Aerodynamic,
hydrodynamic
Re
VL µ
µ
=
Inertia
Viscous
Fr
V
gH
=
Inertia
Gravity
Ma
V
c
=
Inertia
Compressibility
2
We
V L µ
o
=
Inertia
Surfac tension
2
Ca
v
p p
V µ
÷
=
Pressure
Inertia
St
L
V
e
=
Oscillation
Mean speed
2
2
D
D
F
C
V A µ
=
2
2
L
L
F
C
V A µ
=
Drag force
Dynamic force
Lift force
Dynamic force
L
c
Wall roughness
Body length
Some common dimensionless number in Fluid Mechanics
Flow Similarity and Model Studies
p
V
p
L
p
d
p
W
m
V
m
L
m
d
m
W
Prototype
Model
p
V
p
C
p
h
p
ì
m
V
m
C
m
h
m
ì
1. Estimating the drag and lift on a wing
2. Estimating the wave amplitude and wave drag on a ship
Flow conditions for the prototype and model must be completely similar.
Those are possible if all relevant dimensionless parameters have the
same corresponding values for both.
• Dynamic Similarity
– Forces on model and prototype differ only by a constant scale
factor
What is meant by complete similarity?
• Geometric Similarity
– Model and prototype have same shape
– Linear dimensions on model and prototype correspond within
constant scale factor
p p p
m m m
W L d
W L d
= =
p p
m m
h
h
ì
ì
=
• Kinematic Similarity
– Velocities at corresponding points on model and prototype
differ only by a constant scale factor
E.g. for wing and for wave
Scale factors
1. Length scale factor ( ):
p p p
L
m m m
W L d
k
W L d
= = =
m m
L
p p
h
k
h
ì
ì
= =
Consider and are respectively frontal area of prototype and model wing.
p
A
m
A
k
A
=
p
A
m
A
2
L
k =
p
V
m
V
k
V
=
3
L
k =
and similarly
L
k
E.g. for wing and for water wave
2. Velocity scale factor ( ):
V
k
*
*
p p
V
m m
V V
k
V V
= =
*
Corresponds to similar location in both prototype and model
p p
V
m m
V C
k
V C
= = E.g. for wing and for water wave
p p
m m L
V
t p m
V T
V T k
k
k ì ì
= ¬ =
3. Force scale factor ( ):
F
k
p p p p p p
F
m m m m m m
F m a V a
k
F m a V a
µ
µ
= = =
2 2
V L
k k k
µ
=
2 2 2 2
p
m
p p p m m m
F
F
V L V L µ µ
=
Thus dimensionless variables should be same for prototype and model.
t
Basic principle behind modeling rules:
Net force acting on a fluid element
Individual component force on a fluid element
= A dimensionless constant, which is same for prototype and model
Net force = Inertia force ( )
i
F ma =
Viscous force ( )
v
u
F A
y
µ
c
=
c
Gravity force ( )
g
F mg =
Pressure force ( )
pr
F pA =
Surface tension force ( )
s
F L o =
Compressibility force ( )
c v
F E A =
Net force on prototype
Net force on model
Component force on prototype
Component force on model
=
v g pr s c
i.e.
F F F F F F
k k k k k k = = = = =
Re Constant =
An airplane is to fly in standard atmosphere at 360 kmph before take
off. A onefifth model is to be tested in a wind tunnel. Find the
pressure of air inside the tunnel and wind speed required. Also find
the scale factor for lift force
Dominant forces are inertia force, viscous force and compressibility force.
So, Reynolds number and Mach numbers are the relevant dimensionless
number for dynamic similarity
p m
VL VL µ µ
µ µ
   
=
 
\ . \ .
p m
V V
c c
   
=
 
\ . \ .
/ c RT M ¸ =
For gas the speed of sound
Here adiabatic constant
and is molecular weight
¸
M
Since for both prototype and model the fluid is air at same temperature,
m p
c c =
360 1000/ 3600 100 m/s
m p
V V = = × =
To keep the same value of Mc number, we get 1
V
k =
and
For constant Re we need
p m
VL VL µ µ
µ µ
   
=
 
\ . \ .
m p
V V =
m p
µ µ =
and as the model is tested at same temperature of prototype.
( ) ( )
1
5
p
m
L
p m
p m
L
L L k
k L
µ
µ
µ µ
µ
= ¬ = = = =
m p
p p
µ µ
   
=
 
\ . \ .
The fluid being air at same temperature,
So the required pressure inside the wind tunnel is 5 times the atmospheric
pressure.
2 2 2
1
5 1 5
5
L
F V L
k k k k
µ
= = × × =
5
p m
m p
p
p
p p
µ
µ
¬ = =
The scale factor for lift force:
Model testing of free surface flow over a weir
The force on a weir is to be predicted by studying the flow of water
over a 1:10 scale model. If 1.8 m/s is expected velocity over the weir,
what flow rate should be used in the model study? What force
should be expected on the weir if 20 N is measured on the model?
Dominant forces are inertia force and gravity force.
So, Froude numbers is the relevant dimensionless number for
dynamic similarity.
p m
V V
gL gL
   
=
 
 
\ . \ .
Length scale factor is given as, 10
L
k =
Since both prototype and model weir are in same gravitational field,
p m
g g =
p
m
p m
V
V
L L
¬ =
3.9 0.57 m/s
m p
V V = =
p
V
m
V
k
V
=
Hence the velocity scale factor,
Force scale factor:
2 2
F V L
k k k k
µ
=
Hence the force acting on the prototype weir,
1000 20 N 20 kN
p F L
F k F = = × =
3.9
p
L
m
L
k
L
= = =
3 3
or 1 10 1 1000
V g L g
k k k k k k
µ µ
= = × × =
Model testing of floating body
A barge is a flatbottomed boat often towed or pushed by towboat
By modeling experiment we wish to determine the power necessary
to tow a barge of weight 1.1768 MN at a speed of 3.858 m/s. We
assume that all barges are geometrically similar, i.e., their total gross
weights are uniquely defined by their characteristic linear sizes. The
required force to tow the model barge of weight 333.62 N is 20.62 N.
Calculate the power required to tow the prototype barge.
Dominant forces are inertia force, drag force due to gravity wave.
The model and prototype barges are geometrically similar. From the
weights of prototype and model given, we get the mass scale factor as
6
Weight
1.1768 10
3527.36
Weight 333.62
p p
M
m m
M
k
M
×
= = = =
So, Froude numbers is the relevant dimensionless number for
dynamic similarity.
p m
V V
gL gL
   
=
 
 
\ . \ .
Considering that both barges are made of same materials.
3
3527.366 15.222
M V L L
k k k k = = = ¬ =
p
V
m
V
k
V
= =
From constant Fr we get
3.858
0.989 m/s
3.902 3.902
p
m
V
V = = = Hence the towing velocity of model
The power required to tow the barge is W F V = ×
where is the wave drag force acting on the barge F
The scale factor for power,
F V
k k =
For model the required power,
m m m
W F V = ×
So for prototype barge the power required is
13762.34 280608.9 Watt
p m
W W = =
3.902
p
L
m
L
k
L
= =
W
k
2 3
L V
k k k
µ
=
2 3
1 15.222 3.902 13762.34 = × × =
20.62 0.989 20.389 Watt = × =