You are on page 1of 9


Like the flow in a pipe, the flow in a boundary layer can be laminar or
turbulent. In a pipe the transition takes place at a Reynolds Number of about 2000,
although it may be delayed to higher Reynolds numbers by extreme care to avoid
pipe roughness or vibration. In a constant-diameter pipe the flow has the same
character over the entire length of the flow, except for a small region near the
entrance. The same is not true of a boundary-layer flow. In a boundary-layer flow the
characteristics dimension is the distance from leading edge. The appropriate
Reynolds number for boundary-layer calculation is based on this length. For a flat
plate, the transition takes place in the Reynolds number region from 3.5 x 10 5 to 2.8
x 106. This transition is strongly influenced by turbulence in the stream outsides the
boundary layer and by roughness by the surface. A typical boundary layer on a
smooth surface of sufficient length might look like Figure 5. The figure shows not
only laminar, transition, and turbulent boundary layer.
For laminar boundary layers, as for laminar flow in a pipe, it was possible to
calculate the flow behaviour from a set of plausible assumptions and them to show
experimentally that the flow behaved as calculated. For turbulent boundary layers, as
for turbulent flow in pipes, no one is yet able to calculate the flow behaviour without
starting with experimental data. However, from experimental measurements it has
been possible to make some generalizations, which can then be used to extrapolate
to other conditions.
In a turbulent flow the velocity at any point fluctuates randomly with time. Any
such velocity as consisting of a time-average component, V time


, and fluctuating

components, so that, at any point, at any instant

V = Vtime, avg +
These are defined such that Vtime, avg is the average reading over some time interval of
a velocity meter at the point

Vtime,avg. =


V dt

Figure 5
And such that the average value of over some time interval is zero, because it is
positive and negative for equal parts of the total time. In all the following discussions
the velocities are the same time-average velocities, V avg.
Most of the results available for turbulent boundary layers have been found by
measuring time-average velocities at various points in flow in pipes or over flat plates
and by attempting to generalize the velocity profiles. For various experimental
reasons it is easier to make such measurements in pipes, so most of the results are
pipe results. We now consider the turbulent flow in pipes for one section and then
return to the turbulent boundary layer.
Turbulent Flow in Pipes.
Turbulent flow differs from laminar flow in that the principal cause of the shear
stresses between adjacent layers of the fluids is the interchange of masses of fluid
between adjacent layers of fluid moving at different velocities. This gives rise to
additional stresses, called Reynolds Stresses. The most dramatic effect of these
stresses is the large increase of friction heating in turbulent flow over that found in
laminar flow. The other dramatic effect is the change in the shape of the velocity
profile from laminar to turbulent flow. This is shown in Figure 6, where the
experimental turbulent velocity profiles measured by Nikuradse are compared with
the profile for laminar flow.

Figure 6
The velocity profile for laminar flow in a tube is parabolic. For turbulence flow
it is much closer to plug flow; that is to a uniform velocity over the entire pipe cross
section. Furthermore, as seen from Figure 6, as the Reynolds number is increased,
the velocity profile approaches closer and closer to plug flow. At the wall the turbulent
eddies disappear so the shear stress at the wall for both laminar and turbulent flow
of Newtonian fluids is given by o = (dVx / dy ). Although it is very difficult
experimentally to measure velocity gradients very close to the wall, it is clear from
Figure 6 that at the wall the velocity gradient is steeper for turbulence flow; hence the
shear stress and friction heating must be larger for turbulent flow that for laminar
Prandtl showed that each of the different turbulent-flow curves in Figure 6
could be represented fairly well by an equation of the form
V x ,centerline

r wall


For the curves shown in Figure 6 the value of n that gives the best representation of
the experimental curves varies from 1/6 for the lowest Reynolds number to 1/10 for
the highest Reynolds number. The best-fit values of n in Equation 1 for all the
experimental curves are shown in Table 3.
Prandtl selected 1/7 as the best average, deducing Prandtls 1/7 power
velocity distribution rule. This is not an exact rule, because if it were a general rule,

then all the curves in Figure 6 would be identical. Furthermore, it cannot be correct
very near the wall of the tube, because there it predicts that dV/dy is infinite and
hence that the shear stress is infinite. Nonetheless, it is widely used because it is
simple and gives useful results, as shown in Table 3.
It is possible to find more complex correlations for the velocity distribution in a
pipe that do not have the limitations of Prandtls 1/7 power rule. In Figure 6 we see
that the Reynolds number appears as a parameter in the velocity distribution plot. In
trying to produce a universal velocity distribution rule it seems logical to change the
coordinates in Figure 6 so that the Reynolds number enters either explicitly or
implicitly on one of the coordinates, in the hope of getting all the data onto one curve.
Reynolds number

Best-fit value of n

4.0 x 103


2.3 x 10


1.1 x 10


1.1 x 106


2.0 x 106



3.2 x 10

Table 2 Best-fit values* of n in Equation 4.1

The most successful method of doing this been to define a new quantity called the
friction velocity, u*,

(Friction velocity) = u* =


1 /2

( )

= v x ,avg 2

1 /2



Where f is the Fanning friction factor. The friction velocity is not a physical velocity,
which one could measure at some point in the flow, but combination of terms that
has the dimensions of a velocity and hence is called a velocity. Using this velocity
as a parameter, we can prepare a universal plot of pipe velocities, as shown in
Figure 7.
Figure 7 shows that in making up the universal velocity distribution it is
necessary to introduce two new combinations of variables, which are in common use
in the fluid mechanics literature. The ratio of the local velocity to the friction velocity
is called u+ (spoken of as u plus). This is also the ratio of the local time-average

velocity to the average velocity in the entire flow times

f . The combination of the

distance from the pipe wall and the friction velocity divided by kinematic viscosity is
called y+. This can be understood as the product of a kind of Reynolds number that is

based on distance from the wall rather than on pipe diameter and

2 .

Figure 7 shows that the flow can be divided conceptually into three zones:
1. A laminar sub layer nearest the pipe wall, in which the shear stress is
principally due to viscous shear.
2. A turbulent core in the middle of the pipe, in which the shear stress is
principally due to turbulent Reynolds stresses.
3. A layer between them, called the buffer layer, in which both viscous and
Reynolds stresses are of the same order of magnitude.
Good experimental measurements are difficult to make in the laminar sub layer and
buffer layer, so there is some controversy over the best location for the boundaries
shown in Figure 7. Most investigators place the buffer layer at a y + of approximately
5 to 30. Furthermore, current work seems to indicate that the location of the edge of
these layers is not fixed in place but fluctuates up and down, so these values
indicate only the mean locations of these edges. Thus, Figure 7 may be too simple a
picture of the actual behaviour. Nonetheless, it provides a reasonable conceptual
model and is able to correlate most of the available data with reasonable accuracy.
Figure 7 is for smooth pipes. As shown in [graph roughness], increasing the
roughness of the pipe wall in turbulent flow generally leads to an increase in the
friction factor. In Figure 7, we see that increasing the friction factor will increase y +
and decrease u+, so increasing the roughness while holding everything else constant
will move a point on the curve downward and to the right.

Figure 7 Velocity distribution for turbulent flow in smooth tubes

The Steady, Turbulent Boundary Layer on a Flat Plate
There are no known analytic solutions for turbulent boundary layers that are
analogous to Blasiuss solution for the laminar boundary layer on a flat plate. Prandtl,
to describe the steady, turbulent boundary layer on a flat plate, made the following
1. The average velocity in the x direction at any point has the same distribution

as that found in a pipe and is represented by Prandtls

in the form



power rule (4.2)

1/ 7


This presupposes that the velocity profiles at any x are similar to each other,
this is the kind of assumption made by Blasius when he assumed that the
velocity was a function on , not of x and y separately.
2. Over the Reynolds number range of 3 x10 3 to 105 the friction factor plot for
smooth pipes can be approximated by
f = 1 /2
Blasius has shown that this equation fits the smooth-pipes curve in Figure 7
quite well. Prandtl assumed that it could be taken over directly for determining

the shear stress at the surface of the plate, understanding the length term in
Reynolds number given above is twice the thickness of the boundary layer.
Combination (4.3) and (4.4), Prandtl found
1/ 5
=0.37 x
V , x

( )

From this equation and several other relations, we can compute the drag coefficient
for a turbulent boundary layer, finding
C 'f=

R1/x 5



1/ 5


These two equations are based on some very severe assumptions, and their use
can be justified only by experimental verification. Most tests have indicated that they
give a very good representation of experimental data. Other experimental data can
be adduced to show that these equations are at least satisfactory for engineering
purpose. (4.7) assumes that the boundary layer is turbulent from the beginning of the
plate (x=0) to the end of the plate. Such as situation can exist if the beginning of the
plate is artificially roughened. However, more commonly (Figure 5) the first part of
the plate has a laminar boundary layer, which then makes a transition to turbulent
flow farther down the plate. To calculate the drag on such a plate, we would calculate
the separate contributions from the laminar and turbulent parts of the boundary layer.

(4.5) also indicated that turbulent boundary layer grow with distance as x to the

power, compared with the



power for laminar boundary layer. Thus, for the

same distance the boundary layer will be larger and growing faster if it is turbulent
rather than laminar.

Figure 8
Water is flowing in a 3 in ID smooth pipe, with an average velocity of 10 ft/s. How far
from the wall are the edge of the laminar sublayer and the the edge of the buffer
layer? What is the time average velocity at each of those points?
0.25 ft
=2.3 105
5 2
1.08 10 ft / s

From [graph roughness] for smooth pipes, f= 0.0037, so

ft 0.0037 12
=0.44 =0.13

From figure 7 at the edge of the laminar sublayer, u+~ 5 and y+ ~5, so
Vx = u+u* = 5 x 0.44 ft/s = 2.6 ft/s = 0.79 m/s

5 (1.08 10 ft /s)
=1.2 104 ft=1.4 103 0.037 mm
0.44 ft / s
(rwall r) =
y+ v

At the edge of the buffer layer, u+ ~ 12 and y+ ~ 26, so

(rwall r) = 7 x 10

in = 0.18 mm

This example illustrates why there are so few experimental data in the laminar
sublayer and buffer layer, these layers are extremely thin and have very steep
velocity gradients.