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Drag Force and Drag Coefficients

The drag equation is a practical formula used to calculate the force of drag experienced by an object moving through a fluid. The force on a moving object due to a fluid due to Lord Rayleigh is

Fd =

1 2 v Cd A 2

Fd is the force of drag, is the density of the fluid, v is the velocity of the object relative to the fluid, A is the reference, Cd is the drag coefficient (a dimensionless constant).
The reference area A is the area of the projection of the object on a plane perpendicular to the direction of motion (i.e. cross-sectional area). Sometimes different reference areas are given for the same object in which case a drag coefficient corresponding to each of these different areas must be given. Note: v 2 dependence on velocity, meaning that fluid drag increases with the square of velocity. Consider the two flows about a plate shown here:

If the flow is completely stopped on has a stagnation flow and the drag coefficient Cd is 1.0 and the pressure distribution on the plate would be constant at the stagnation pressure as shown. On the other hand is the fluid flow about the plate then the Cd > 1 and there will be a negative pressure relative to the ambient pressure on the back surface of the plate as shown. For example, typical examples of drag coefficients for typical automobiles are between 0.3 and 0.5. In particular, 1. 0.36 : Honda Civic (2001) 2. 0.31 : Honda Civic (2006) 3. 0.29 : Honda Accord Hybrid (2005) 4. 0.35 : Toyota MR2 (1998) 5. 0.34 : Ferrari F40 (1987) 6. 0.57 : Hummer H2 (2003) 7. 0.7-1.1 : Formula 1 car Typical drag coefficients for some other bodies are: 1. 2.1 : smooth brick 2. 0.9 : bicycle + rider 3. 0.4 : rough sphere (Re =106) 4. 1.0-1.3 : person (upright) 5. 1.0 -1.1 : skier Now lets consider the drag on cylinders, disks and various shaped cones. First consider the circular disk and a sphere shown here.

Notice here that the drag coefficient of the circular cylinder approaches a constant, 1.17, when the Reynolds number is greater than about 1000. Also note the drag coefficient for the sphere suddenly decreases at a certain Reynolds number which depends on the surface roughness. This occurs because the laminar boundary layer becomes turbulent and the separation point moves rearward and the form drag is reduced. Note that the turbulence level in the main-stream also effects the location of this point. In contrast consider the drag coefficient for a blunt and rounded nose cylinder shown here.

The drag of the cylinder oriented as shown is about 0.81 as long as the length-to-diameter ratio is greater than 2 and as this ratio goes to zero the drag coefficient is that of a flat circular disk. The drag coefficients for various 3D and 2D shapes are shown here.

Now consider the drag of the typical golf ball shown here.

To understand the effect of the dimples first consider the flow of an ideal, i.e. inviscid, fluid about the golf ball. The flow field and pressure distribution are shown here.

It is the difference between the high and low pressure values that account for the lift and drag forces a body experiences. Note for this ideal flow about the sphere there is no drag force because the high and low values cancel one another. This is referred to as dAlemberts Paradox. Note that in this flow of an ideal zero viscosity fluid there is no separation because the flow stays attached as it flows about the body. Now consider the flow of a viscous fluid about the same sphere at a sufficiently large Reynolds number such that it separates as shown here.

Notice that in this case the pressure distribution, solid line, compared to the ideal case, dashed line, is quite different and the positive and negative contributions do not sum to zero and thus a drag force is exerted on the sphere and dAlemberts Paradox is resolved. In the case of separated flow about a sphere the drag force and hence drag coefficient is dominated by form drag which depends on the separation point on the sphere. Hence anything that effects the location of the separation point has a large effect on the drag coefficient. For example, the dimples on a golf ball cause the laminar boundary layer to become turbulent sooner and this moves the separation point rearward decreasing the from drag and the drag coefficient as shown here.

The effect of the location of the stagnation point on the flow structure is illustrated here.

An illustration of the effect of flow separation on streamlined and blunt shapes is illustrated here.

Note the contribution of the skin friction and the pressure (or form drag) components of the overall drag as illustrated in the figure. In the case of a streamlined body the drag is primarily skin friction and in the case of a blunt body is primarily pressure or form drag. Another effect comes into play if the sphere or golf ball is rotating. This effect is called the Magnus effect. This effect causes the objects motion to effect its trajectory. Consider the image of a rotating ball shown here.

On one side of the sphere the velocity of the flow is increased and on the other side the velocity of the flow is decreased. Therefore the pressure is lower on the side with the higher velocity and the sphere experiences a force as shown in the figure. In addition to this Magnus effect the boundary layer flow is delayed on the side moving with the free stream and advanced on the side moving against the flow.