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Chapter 3

Fluid Statics
3.1 Hydrostatic Pressure
• Fluid mechanics is the study of fluid in motion.
• Special case: NO motion at all.
• Fluid statics - determine the stress field.

The force/stress on any given surface

immersed in a fluid at rest, is always
perpendicular (normal) to the surface.
Recall that by definition, a fluid moves and deforms when
subjected to shear stress and, conversely, a fluid that is
static (at rest) is not subjected to any shear stress.
Otherwise it'll move!
 

At any given point in a fluid at rest, the normal stress

is the same in all directions (hydrostatic pressure).
• Consider a small, wedged-shaped fluid element.

• Fluid is in equilibrium, so F=0.

• Let the element be sufficiently small so that we can
assume that the stress is constant on any surface
(uniformly distributed).
F1=1dA1 ; F2=2dA2 ; F3=3dA3
m =  V
 - fluid density ; V=(xyz)/2 - element volume

Consider the element side view,

∑Fx = 0
F1cos - F2 = 0
1A1 cos - 2A2 = 0
1y(z/cos) cos - 2yz = 0  1 = 2
∑Fz = 0
F1sin + mg= F3
1A1sin + Vg = 3A3
1(x/sin)y sin + g(xyz)/2= 3xy
1 + gz/2= 3
Shrink the element down to an infinitesimal point,
such that z0, and then 1=3.

1 = 2 = 3
• Normal stress at any point in a fluid in equilibrium
is the same in all directions.
• This stress is called hydrostatic pressure.
• Pressure has units of force per unit area.
F = pA [N/m2]

The objective is to find the stress field in a given body of fluid,

namely to find the pressure at any point in a fluid at rest.
3.2 Vertical distribution of pressure
• Consider a large tank of liquid
• Select a small element of fluid
in a convenient shape
• Force balance:
(p+dp) A + g A dy = p A
dp/dy = -g
• Negative sign indicates that p decreases
as y increases.
• For a constant density fluid, we can integrate for
any 2 vertical points in the fluid (1) & (2):
p2 - p1 = -g(y2 - y1)
p = gy
where p = p2-p1 and y = y2-y1

• If =(y), then:
∫dp = -g ∫(y)dy
3.3 Horizontal distribution of pressure
• Consider a convenient element of liquid
• Force balance:
p1A = p2A

p1 = p2

Pressure is constant in any horizontal plane

Having the vertical & horizontal distribution allows to

determine the pressure at any point in a fluid at rest.
3.4 Forces on immersed surfaces
• For constant density fluid:
- The pressure varies with depth, p=gh.
- The pressure acts perpendicular to an immersed surface.

3.4.1 Plane surface

• Let the surface be infinitely thin, i.e. NO volume.
• Plate has arbitrary planform, and is set at an arbitrary
angle, , with the horizontal plane.
• Considering the top plate surface only, the pressure
acting on the plate at any given depth h is:
p = patm + gh
• So, the pressure distribution on the surface is linear.
• To find the total force on the top surface, integrate the
pressure over the area of the plate,
F = ∫pdA = patmA + g ∫hdA
• Note that h=ysin, therefore:
F = patmA + g sin ∫ydA
• Recall that the location of c.g. along y is:
ycg = (A)-1 ∫ydA
• So,
F = patmA + g sin ycgA
• or,
F = patmA + g hcgA = (patm+ghcg)A
• If the pressure at c.g. is pcg=patm+ghcg, then:

F = pcgA

 In a fluid of uniform density, the force on a submerge plane

surface is equal to the pressure at the c.g. of the plane
multiplied by the area of the plane.
 F is independent of .
 The shape of the plate is not important.
Where does the total/resultant force act?
Similar to c.g., the point on the surface where the resultant
force is applied is called the Center of Pressure, c.p.

The moment of the resultant force about the x-axis should

equal the moment of the original distributed pressure
about the x-axis, i.e.
ycpF = ∫y dF = g sin ∫y2 dA + Patm∫y dA
Recall that the moment of inertia about the x-axis, Iox, is
by definition:
Iox = ∫y2 dA = ycg2 A + Icgx
Icgx – moment of inertia about the x-axis at c.g.

ycpF = g sin Iox + patm ycgA

= g sin (ycg2A + Icgx) + patm ycgA
= (g sin ycgA + patmA)ycg + g sin Icgx

ycp = ycg + (g sin Icgx) / (pcgA)


xcp = xcg + (g sin Icgy) / (pcgA)

Icgy – moment of inertia about the y-axis at c.g.

Tables of Icg for common shapes are available

3.4.2 Curved surface
• Consider a warped plate submerged in water,
what is the resulting force acting on it?
The problem can be simplified by
examining the horizontal and vertical
components separately. Horizontal force

 Zoom on an arbitrary point 'a'.
 Locally, it is like a flat plate!
 pa is the pressure acting at 'a',
and it is normal to the surface.
 The force due to the pressure at 'a' is:
Fa = paAa
which acts along the same direction as pa.

 Its horizontal component is:

FaH = Fasin = paAasin

 But, Aasin is the vertical projection of 'a', so that the

horizontal force at 'a' due to pressure is equal to the force
that would be exerted on a plane, vertical projection of 'a'.
This can be generalized for the entire plane.
 The horizontal force on a curved surface equals the force
on the plane area formed by the projection of the curved
surface onto a vertical plane.

 The line of action on a curved surface is the same as the

line of action on a projected plane.

 This is true because for every point

on the vertical projection there is a
corresponding point on the warped
plate that has the same pressure. Vertical force
 Similar to the previous approach,
FaV = Facos = paAacos

 Aacos is the horizontal projection of 'a',

but this is true only at one point!
 Notice that if one looks at the entire plate,
the pressures on the horizontal projection
are not equal to the pressures on the plate.

Note: pa = gha  FaV = ghaAa cos

In general, pa  pa’
• Consequently, one needs to integrate along the curved plate.
• This is not difficult if the shape of the plate is given in a functional
• The ultimate result is:
- The vertical component of the force on a curved surface is equal to
the total weight of the volume of fluid above it.
- The line of action is through the c.g. of the volume.
• If the lower side of a surface is exposed while the upper side is
not, the resulting vertical force is equal to the weight of the fluid
that would be above the surface.

Fv Fv
Curved submerged surface - summary
• Horizontal force = Equivalent vertical plane force
• Vertical force = Weight of fluid directly above
(+ Free surface pressure force)

 So far, only surfaces (not volumes) have been discussed.

 In fact, only one side of the surface has been considered.
 Note that for a surface to be in equilibrium, there has to be
an equal and opposite force on the other side.
3.5 Bodies with volume
• The volume can be constructed from two curved surfaces
put together, and thus utilize the previous results.
1 2 1' 2'
b c
FHab FHcd
a d
FV cd
• Since the vertical projections of both plates are the same,
FHab = FHcd., such that: FH=0.
FVab = g(Vol. 1-a-b-2-1) ; FVcd = g(Vol. 1’-d-c-2-1’)
Note that this is true regardless of whether there is or there isn't any fluid above c-d.

• Join the two plates together,

1 2


• Total force: FB=FVcd-FVab=gVa-b-c-d

• This force FB is called Buoyancy!
3.6 Archimedes' principle
• The net vertical force on an immersed body of arbitrary
shape due to the pressure forces acting on the surfaces
of the body is equal to the weight of the displaced fluid.
• The line of action is through the center of the mass of the
displaced fluid volume.
• Direction of buoyant force is upward.

• If a body immersed in a fluid is in equilibrium, then:

W = FB = gV
W - the weight of the body
• For a body in a fluid of varying density, e.g. ocean,
the body will sink or rise until it is at a height where
its density is equal to the density of the fluid.

• For a body in a constant density fluid, the body will

float at a level such that the weight of the volume of
fluid it displaces is equal to its own weight.