Hydrostatic Forces
The design of many engineering systems such as water dams and
liquid storage tanks requires the determination of the forces acting
on the surfaces using fluid statics. The complete description of the
resultant hydrostatic force acting on a submerged surface requires
the determination of its magnitude, its point of application or its
direction, and the line of action of the force.
2.7 Hydrostatic Forces On Submerged Plane Surfaces
When a surface such as a gate valve in a dam, the wall of a liquid
storage tank, or the hull of a ship is submerged in a fluid, forces
develope on the surface due to the fluid pressure. For fluids at rest
we know that the force must be perpendicular to the surface since
there are no shearing stresses present. We also know that the
pressure will vary linearly with depth if the fluid is incompressible.
Fig. 2.18 below shows the hydrostatics pressure distribution on the
submerged tilted, vertical and horizontal plates.
Fig. 2.18 : Hydrostatic force distribution on the submerged plates.
In most cases, the other side of the plate is open to the atmosphere
(such as the dry side of a gate), and thus atmospheric pressure acts
on both sides of the plate, yielding a zero resultant. In such cases, it
is convenient to subtract atmospheric pressure and work with the
gauge pressure only.
On a plane surface, we often need to determine the magnitude of the
resultant force and its point of application, which is called the center
of pressure.
2.7.1 Hydrostatic Forces Acting On Horizontal Submerged
Plane Surfaces
For the horizontal surface, such as the bottom surface of a tank as
shown in Fig. 2.19, the magnitude of the resultant force is simply
F
R
=pA =gh.A
where ;
p = uniform pressure on the bottom
A = area of the bottom
Fig. 2.19 : Pressure distribution on the bottom horizontal surface of
tank
Since the pressure is constant and uniformly distributed over the
bottom, the resultant force acts through the centroid of the area.
#Example 2.13 : Hydrostatic Force on the Horizontal Plane
The rigid Lshaped gate OAB is 3 m width and hinged at O and rests against a rigid
support at B. Find the hydrostatic force acting on the plate AB.
Fig E2.13
Solution :
( )( )( )( )
AB plate of centroid the through acting     kN
.
412
3 2 7 81 9 1000
=
=
= = A gh A p F
R
To be continued at Example 2.14
2.7.2 Hydrostatic Forces Acting On Vertical and Inclined
Submerged Plane Surfaces
For the more general cases in which a submerged plane surface is
inclined, as is illustrated in Fig. 2.20, the determination of the
resultant force acting on the surface is more involved.
Fig. 2.20 : Arbitrary shape plane submerged in liquid
For the present we will assume that the fluid surface is open to
the atmosphere. Let the plane in which the surface lies intersect the
free surface at O and make an angle with this surface. The xy
coordinate system is defined so that 0 is the origin and y is directed
along the surface as shown. The area can have an arbitrary shape as
shown. Now, we wish to determine the direction, location, and
magnitude of the resultant force acting on one side of this area due
to the liquid in contact with the area.
At any given depth, h, the force acting on dA is dA h dF . = and
is acting perpendicular to the surface. Thus, the magnitude of the
resultant force can be found by summing these differential forces
over the entire surface. In equation form,
}
=
A
R
dA h F . with sin y h=
}
=
A
dA y sin
}
=
A
ydA sin
The integral of ydA is the first moment of the area with respect to
the x axis or ydA = y
c
A, so we can write,
A y A y F
c c R
. sin . sin = =
Or more simply as,
A gh
A h F
c
c R
=
=
where ;
h
c
= vertical distance from free surface to the centroid of the area.
Note that the magnitude of the force is independent of the angle and
depends only on the specific weight of the fluid, the total area, and
the depth of the centroid of the area below the surface.
In effect, the equation indicates that the magnitude of the resultant
force is equal to the pressure at the centroid of the area multiplied by
the total area. Since all the differential forces that were summed to
obtain are perpendicular to the surface, the resultant must also
be perpendicular to the surface.
Besides the magnitude of resultant force, the location where this F
R
is
acting on also has to be determined. This point or location is called
as center of pressure, CP. The location of CP normally is described in
terms of vertical distance from free surface, h
R
or h
cp
or inclined
distance from free surface, y
R
(or sometimes also known as y
cp
).
Note : From the equation F
R
= gh
c
.A, our intuition might suggest
that the resultant force should pass through the centroid of the area,
this is not actually the case.
The y
R
can be determined by summing the moments around
the x axis. That is, the moment of the resultant force must equal the
moment of the distributed pressure force, or
}
}
=
=
A
R R
A
R R
dA y y F
ydF y F
2
sin
Thus,
A y
dA y
Ay
dA y
F
dA y
y
c
A
c
A
R
A
R
} } }
= = =
2 2 2
sin
sin sin
But,
A
y
2
dA is the second moment of the area (moment of inertia,
I
x
), with respect to an axis formed by the intersection of the plane
containing the surface and the free surface (x axis). Thus, we can
write,
2
c xc
c
x
R
Ay I
A y
I
y + = =
x
I with
where I
xc
is the second moment of the area with respect to an axis
passing through its centroid and parallel to the x axis. Thus,
c
c
xc
R
y
A y
I
y + =
Or, in vertical distance, h
cp @
h
R
c
c
xc
R
h
A h
I
h + =
2
sin
since y
R
= h
R
/sin and y
c
= h
c
/sin
Both result shows that the resultant force does not pass through the
centroid but is always below the centroid, since I
xc
/y
c
A > 0.
Fig. 2.21 shows the I
xc
properties of some common shape.
Fig. 2.21 : Geometric properties of some common shapes.
Procedure for computing the hydrostatic force on a
submerged plane area
1. Identify the point where the angle of inclination of the area of
interest intersects the level of free surface of the fluid. This may
require the extension of the angled surface or the fluid surface
line. Call this point as origin, 0.
2. Locate the centroid of the area from its geometry.
3. Determine h
c
as the vertical distance from the level of the free
surface down to the centroid of the area.
4. Determine y
c
as the inclined distance from the level of the free
surface down to the centroid of the area. This is the distance from
0 to the centroid. Note that h
c
and y
c
are related by h
c
= y
c
sin .
5. Calculate the resultant force from A gh A h F
c c R
= =
6. Then calculate the I
xc
, the moment of inertia of the area about its
centroidalx axis.
7. Determine the location of cp by calculating the y
R
from
(i)
c
c
xc
R cp
y
A y
I
y o y + = r
* Or h
R
for vertical plane cases which is using the equation of
(ii)
c
c
xc
R cp
h
A h
I
h o h + =
2
sin
r
8. Sketch the F
R
acting on the cp, perpendicular to the area (or the
whole free body diagram if necessary).
9. Calculate other force magnitude if required using M=0 for
equilibrium.
Note :
 For inclined plane case, follow all steps 1 to 7.
 For vertical plane case, follow steps 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 (ii).
 Step 8 and 9 required if problem involved solving using M=0.
#Example 2.14 : Hydrostatic Force on the Vertical Plane
The rigid Lshaped gate, OAB, of Fig. E2.14 is hinged at O and rests against a rigid
support at B. What minimum horizontal force, P, is required to hold the gate closed if
its width is 3 m? Neglect the weight of the gate and friction in the hinge. The back of
the gate is exposed to the atmosphere.
Fig E2.14
In this case, we should decompose the force analysis of L gate into two parts:
i. determination the resultant force FR(AB) which acting on plate AB.
ii. determination of the resultant force FR(OA) which acting on the plate OA.
Solution :
iii. From Eg. E2.13, FR(OB) acting on plate AB has been calculating which is
equal
to 412 Kn.
iv. For plate OA,
( )
( )( )( )( )
kN 6 . 588
3 4 5 81 . 9 1000
=
=
= = A gh A p F
c c OA R
( )
4
3 3
m 16
12
4 3
12
= = =
bd
I
xc
( )
( )( )
m
A h
I
h h
c
xc
c OA R
27 . 5
3 4 5
16
5
.
=
+ =
+ =
FREE BODY DIAGRAM
Refer to free body diagram above, for equilibrium,
( )
( )
( )
( )
( ) ( )
kN P
P
P F F
M
AB
R OA R
hinge
437
4 1 412000 27 . 2 588600
) 4 ( 1 3 27 . 5
0
=
= +
= +
=
#Example 2.15 : Hydrostatic Force on the Vertical Plane
An open tank has a vertical partition and on one side contains gasoline with a
density 700 kg/m
3
at a depth of 4 m, as shown in Fig. E2.15. A rectangular gate that
is 4 m high and 2 m wide and hinged at one end is located in the partition. Water is
slowly added to the empty side of the tank. At what depth, h, will the gate start to
open?
Fig E2.15
Solution :
( )( )( )( )
kN 9 . 109
2 4 2 81 . 9 700
=
=
= = A gh A p F
c c gasoline R
( )
4
3 3
m 67 . 10
12
4 2
12
= = =
bd
I
xc
( )( )
m
A h
I
h h
c
xc
c gasoline R
67 . 2
2 4 2
67 . 10
2
.
=
+ =
+ =
( )( )( )( )
/ .
2
9810
2 2 81 9 1000
h
h h
A gh A p F
c c water R
=
=
= =
( )
4 3
3 3
m 167 . 0
12
2
12
h
h bd
I
xc
= = =
( )( )
h
h h
h
h
A h
I
h h
c
xc
c water R
667 0
2 2
167 0
2
3
.
/
.
/
.
=
+ =
+ =
For equilibrium,
( ) ( )
( ) ( )
m h
h
h h h
h F h h F
M
gasoline R gasoline R water R water R
hinge
56 3
146167 73 3266
67 2 4 109900 667 0 9810
4
0
3
2
.
.
. .
=
=
=
=
=
#Example 2.16 : Hydrostatic Force on the Vertical Plane
A pressurized tank contains oil (SG = 0.9) and has a square, 0.6m by 0.6m plate
bolted to its side, as is illustrated in Fig. E2.16. When the pressure gauge on the top
of the tank reads 50 kPa, what is the magnitude and location of the resultant force on
the attached plate? The outside of the tank is at atmospheric pressure.
Fig E2.16
Solution :
( )
( ) ( )( )( )  ( )
kN .
. . . .
.
3 25
6 0 6 0 3 2 81 9 900 10 50
3
=
+ =
+ = = A gh p A p F
c air c R
( )
4
3 3
m 0108 . 0
12
6 . 0 6 . 0
12
= = =
bd
I
xx
( )( )
m
A h
I
h h
c
xc
c R
31 . 2
6 . 0 6 . 0 3 . 2
0108 . 0
3 . 2
.
=
+ =
+ =
#Example 2.17 : Hydrostatic Force on the Inclined Plane
The 4 m diameter circular gate of Fig. E2.17 is located in the inclined wall of a large
reservoir containing water. The gate is mounted on a shaft along its horizontal
diameter. For a water depth of 10 m above the shaft, determine:
(a) the magnitude and location of the resultant force exerted on the gate by the
water,
(b) and the moment that would have to be applied to the shaft to open the gate.
Fig E2.17
Solution :
a. The magnitude and location of resultant force
A gh F
c R
. =
( )( )( ) ( ) ( ) kN . 1230 2 10 81 9 1000
2
= =
R
F
( )
4
m 4
4
2
4
4 4
= = =
R
I
xx
A y
I
y y
c
xx
c R
.
+ =
( ) ( ) ( )
2
2 60 10
4
60
10
sin /
sin
+ =
m 6 11. =
b. The moment that would have to be applied to the shaft to open the gate.
( ) ( ) . 10 07 . 1 0866 . 0 10 1230
5 3
Nm y y F M
c R R
= = =
Pressure Prism
The pressure prism is a graphical representation of the
hydrostatic force on a plain surface. The magnitude of the resultant
fluid force is equal to the volume of the pressure prism and passes
through the centroid.
Consider the pressure distribution along a vertical wall of a tank
of width b, which contains a liquid having a specific weight . Since
the pressure must vary linearly with depth, we can represent the
variation as is shown in Fig. 2.22 (a), where the pressure is equal to
zero at the upper surface and equal to h at the bottom.
Fig. 2.22 : The pressure prism
The pressure distribution shown in Fig. 2.22 (a) applies across
the vertical surface so we can draw the threedimensional
representation of the pressure distribution as shown in Fig. 2.22 (b).
The base of this volume in pressurearea space is the plane surface
of interest, and its altitude at each point is the pressure. This volume
is called the pressure prism, and it is clear that the magnitude of the
resultant force acting on the surface is equal to the volume of the
pressure prism or,
( )( )
2
2
2 2
1
bh
bh
h
bh h
prism of volume F
R
=
= =
=
.
pressure
J UST CHECK!....
A gh A h F
h
h
ce
A
h
bh
prism pressure of Volume F
c c R
c
R
= =
=
= =
=
2
sin
2 2
1
2
The resultant force must pass through the centroid of the pressure
prism which is located along the vertical axis of symmetry of the
surface, and at a distance h/3 above the base (since the centroid of a
triangle is located at h/3 above its base) or 2/3h from the upper end.
Or it can be proved as follows,
h
h h
bh h
bh h
A h
I
h h
c
xc
c R
3
2
6 2
2
12
2
3
=
+ =
+ =
+ =
/
/
Note :
The use of pressure prisms for determining the force on submerged
plane areas is convenient if the area is rectangular so the volume
and centroid can be easily determined. However, for other
nonrectangular shapes, integration would generally be needed to
determine the volume and centroid. In these circumstances it is more
convenient to use the equations developed in the previous section.
This same graphical approach can be used for plane surfaces that do
not extend up to the fluid surface as illustrated in Fig. 2.23. In this
instance, the cross section of the pressure prism is trapezoidal.
However, the resultant force is still equal in magnitude to the volume
of the pressure trapezoidal, and it passes through the centroid of the
volume.
Fig. 2.23 : The pressure distribution on the vertical plates located far
below from the free surface.
Specific values can be obtained by decomposing the pressure
prism/trapezoidal into two parts, ABDE and BCD. Thus,
2 1
F F F
R
+ =
where the components can readily be determined by inspection for
rectangular surfaces. The location of F
R
can be determined by
summing moments about some convenient axis, such as one passing
through A. In this instance,
2 2 1 1
y F y F y F
A R
+ =
Therefore the location where the F
R
acts measured from point A is
R
A
F
y F y F
y
2 2 1 1
+
=
#Example 2.18 : Determination of Hydrostatic Force on the Vertical Plane
Using Pressure PrismTechnique
Solve Example 2.16 using pressure prism technique.
Solution :
Fig E2.18
( )A h p F
s 1 1
+ =
( ) ( )( )    ( ) 6 . 0 6 . 0 2 81 . 9 1000 90 . 0 50000 + =
kN 4 . 24 =
A
h h
F

.

\

=
2
1 2
2
( ) ( ) 6 . 0 6 . 0
2
6 . 0
81 . 9 1000 90 . 0

.

\

=
kN 954 . 0 =
Total hydrostatic force,
kN F F F
R
4 . 25 954 . 0 4 . 24
2 1
= + = + =
The location of FR measured from O, yo,
( ) ( ) 2 . 0 3 . 0
2 1
F F y F
o R
+ =
So,
( ) ( )
R
o
F
F F
y
2 . 0 3 . 0
2 1
+
=
( )( ) ( )( )
( )
m 296 . 0
10 4 . 25
2 . 0 10 954 . 0 3 . 0 10 4 . 24
3
3 3
=
+
=
m 296 . 0 =
Therefore the location of FR measured from free surface, hR,
m h
R
3 . 2 296 . 0 6 . 2 = =
2.8 Hydrostatic Forces Acting On Submerged Curved
Surfaces
The equations F
R
=gh
C
A and h
R
=I
xc
/h
C
.A + h
C
are developed for the
magnitude and location of the resultant force acting on a submerged
surface only apply to plane surfaces. However,many surfaces of
interest (such as those associated with dams, pipes, and tank) are
nonplanar.
Fig. 2.24 : Examples of curved or nonplanar surfaces.
For submerged curved surface, the determination of the resultant
force (F
R
) typically requires the integration of the pressure force that
change along the curve surface.
However, the easiest way to determine the F
R
acting on the curved
surface by separating it into the horizontal and vertical components,
F
H
and F
V
.
This is done by considering the freebody diagram of the fluid volume
enclosed by the curved surface of interest and the horizontal and
vertical projections of this surface, as shown in Fig. 2.25 below.
Fig. 2.25 : Hydrostatic force on the curved surface
The forces acting on this enclosed volume include :
1. W is the weight of the enclosed fluid volume and acts downward
through the centroid of this volume which is simply given by,
W=gV
2. F
x
is the hydrostatic force acting on the vertical projection surface
area, through the centroid of this vertical surface where,
F
x
=gh
2
.A
vertical
3. F
y
is the hydrostatic force acting on the horizontal projection
surface area, through the centroid of this horizontal surface
where,
F
Y
=gh
1
.A
horizontal
Note that :
vertical surface = the projection of the curved surface on a
vertical plane,
horizontal surface = the projection of the curved surface on a
horizontal plane.
From the Fig. 2 25 (b), for the equilibrium, the force balances in the
horizontal and vertical directions give;
x H
F F = and W F F
y V
+ =
The magnitude of resultant force, F
R
is then given by,
2 2
V H R
F F F + =
And its direction,


.

\

=
H
V
F
F
1
tan
Summary of the procedure for computing the hydrostatic
force on submerged curved surface.
1. Isolate the volume of fluid above/under the curved surface.
2. Sketch the free body diagram (FBD) of the fluid volume and
show all the forces involved with correct direction and location.
3. Compute the F
x
=gh
2
.A
vertical .
(identify first the h
2
and vertical
projection surface area, A
vertical
for F
x
).
4. Compute F
Y
=gh
1
.A
horizontal
(identify first the h
1
and horizontal
projection surface area, A
horizontal
for F
Y
).
5. Compute W=gV (identify first the fluid volume,V).
6. Calculate F
V
and F
H
from the FBD.
7. Calculate the resultant force, F
R
from
2 2
V H R
F F F + = and its
direction from


.

\

=
H
V
F
F
1
tan .
8. Show the resultant force acting on the curved surface in such a
direction that its line of action passes through the center of
curvature of the surface.
9. Sketch the FBD and solve problem using M=0 if required*.
#Example 2.19: Hydrostatic Force on the Curve Surface
A 5 m width curved gate is located in the side of a reservoir containing water as
shown in Fig. E2.19. Determine the magnitude of the resultant force and its location.
Fig. E2.19
Solution :
Fig. E2.19 (b)
From the free body diagram of the fluid on the curve surface,
x H
F F =
And W F F
y V
+ =
where,
( )( ) ( )
kN
ghA F
y x
1104
3 5
2
3
6 81 9 1000
=

.

\

+ =
=
.
( )( )( )( )
kN
ghA F
x y
883
3 5 6 81 9 1000
=
=
=
.
( )( )
( )
kN
r
g g W
347
5
4
3
81 9 1000
4
2
2
=
(
=


.

\

= =
Therefore, = = kN 1104
x H
F F
+ = + = + = kN 1230 347 883 W F F
y V
Thus,
( ) ( )
kN
F F F
V H R
1653
1230 1104
2 2
2 2
=
+ =
+ =
and
48
1104
1230
1 1
=

.

\

=


.

\

=
tan tan
H
V
F
F
#Example 2.20: Hydrostatic Force on the Curve Surface
A long solid cylinder of radius 0.8 m hinged at point A is used as an automatic
gate, as shown in Fig. E2.20. When the water level reaches 5 m, the gate opens by
turning about the hinge at point A. Determine the hydrostatic force per m length of
the cylinder and its line of action when the gate opens.
Fig. E2.20
Solution :
From the free body diagram of the fluid under curve surface,
x H
F F =
and W F F
y V
=
where,
( )( ) ( )
kN
ghA F
y x
1 36
1 8 0
2
8 0
2 4 81 9 1000
.
.
.
. .
=

.

\

+ =
=
( )( )( )( )
kN
ghA F
x y
2 39
1 8 0 5 81 9 1000
.
. .
=
=
=
( )
( )( ) ( )
( )
( )
kN
R
R g g W
3 1
1
4
8 0
8 0 81 9 1000
4
2
2
2
2
.
.
. .
=
(
=


.

\

= =
Therefore, = = kN .1 36
x H
F F
and + = = = kN . 3 . . 9 7 3 1 2 39 W F F
y V
Thus,
( ) ( )
kN
F F F
V H R
3 52
9 37 1 36
2 2
2 2
.
. .
=
+ =
+ =
and,
4 46
1 36
9 37
1 1
.
.
.
tan tan =

.

\

=


.

\

=
H
V
F
F
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