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Transport Phenomena - Fluid Mechanics Problem :


Newtonian fluid flow in a circular tube
Problem.
Consider a fluid (of constant density ) in incompressible, laminar flow in a tube of
circular cross section, inclined at an angle to the vertical. End effects may be neglected
because the tube length L is relatively very large compared to the tube radius R. The fluid
flows under the influence of both a pressure difference p and gravity.

Figure. Fluid flow in circular tube.


a) Using a differential shell momentum balance, determine expressions for the steadystate shear stress distribution and the velocity profile for a Newtonian fluid (of constant
viscosity ).
b) Obtain expressions for the maximum velocity, average velocity and the mass flow rate
for pipe flow.
c) Find the force exerted by the fluid along the pipe wall.

Solution.
Click here for stepwise solution
a)

Flow in pipes occurs in a large variety of situations in the real world and is studied in
various engineering disciplines as well as in physics, chemistry, and biology.
Step. Differential equation from shell momentum balance
For a circular tube, the natural choice is cylindrical coordinates. Since the fluid flow is in
the z-direction, vr = 0, v = 0, and only vz exists. Further, vz is independent of z and it is
meaningful to postulate that velocity vz = vz(r) and pressure p = p(z). The only
nonvanishing components of the stress tensor are rz = zr, which depend only on r.
Consider now a thin cylindrical shell perpendicular to the radial direction and of length L.
A 'rate of z-momentum' balance over this thin shell of thickness r in the fluid is of the
form:
Rate of z-momentum

In Out + Generation = Accumulation

At steady-state, the accumulation term is zero. Momentum can go 'in' and 'out' of the
shell by both the convective and molecular mechanisms. Since vz(r) is the same at both
ends of the tube, the convective terms cancel out because ( vz vz 2r r)|z = 0 = ( vz vz 2r
r)|z = L. Only the molecular term (2r L rz ) remains to be considered, whose 'in' and 'out'
directions are taken in the positive direction of the r-axis. Generation of z-momentum
occurs by the pressure force acting on the surface [p 2r r] and gravity force acting on
the volume [( g cos ) 2r r L]. On substituting these contributions into the zmomentum balance, we get
(2r L rz ) | r (2r L rz ) | r + r+ ( p 0 p L ) 2r r + ( g cos ) 2r r L = 0

(1)

Dividing the above equation by 2 L r yields


(r rz ) | r + r (r rz ) | r
=
r

p 0 p L + g L cos
L

(2)

On taking the limit as r 0, the left-hand side of the above equation is the definition of
the first derivative. The right-hand side may be written in a compact and convenient way
by introducing the modified pressure P, which is the sum of the pressure and
gravitational terms. The general definition of the modified pressure is P = p + g h ,
where h is the height (in the direction opposed to gravity) above some arbitrary
preselected datum plane. The advantages of using the modified pressure P are that (i) the
components of the gravity vector g need not be calculated in cylindrical coordinates; (ii)
the solution holds for any orientation of the tube axis; and (iii) the effects of both pressure
and gravity are in general considered. Here, h is negative since the z-axis points

downward, giving h = z cos and therefore P = p g z cos . Thus, P0 = p0 at z = 0


and PL = pL g L cos at z = L giving p0 pL + g L cos = P0 PL P. Thus,
equation (2) gives
d

P
(r rz) =

dr

(3)

Equation (3) on integration leads to the following expression for the shear stress
distribution:
P
rz =

C1
r+

2L

(4)
r

The constant of integration C1 is determined later using boundary conditions.


It is worth noting that equations (3) and (4) apply to both Newtonian and non-Newtonian
fluids, and provide starting points for many fluid flow problems in cylindrical coordinates
(click here for detailed discussion).
Step. Shear stress distribution and velocity profile
Substituting Newton's law of viscosity for rz in equation (4) gives
dvz

P
=

dr

C1
r+

2L

(5)
r

The above differential equation is simply integrated to obtain the following velocity
profile:
P
C1
vz =
r2
ln r + C2
4L

The integration constants C1 and C2 are evaluated from the following boundary
conditions:
BC 1: at r = 0, rz and vz are finite

(6)

(7)

BC 2: at r = R,

vz = 0

(8)

From BC 1 (which states that the momentum flux and velocity at the tube axis cannot be
infinite), C1 = 0. From BC 2 (which is the no-slip condition at the fixed tube wall), C2 =
P R2 / (4 L). On substituting C1 = 0 in equation (4), the final expression for the shear
stress (or momentum flux) distribution is found to be linear as given by
P
rz =

(9)

2L
Further, substitution of the integration constants into equation (6) gives the final
expression for the velocity profile as
vz =

P R 2
4L

r
R

(10)

It is observed that the velocity distribution for laminar, incompressible flow of a


Newtonian fluid in a long circular tube is parabolic.
b)
Step. Maximum velocity, average velocity and mass flow rate
From the velocity profile, various useful quantities may be derived.
(i) The maximum velocity occurs at r = 0 (where dvz/dr = 0). Therefore,
P R2
vz,max = vz| r = 0 =

(11)
4L

(ii) The average velocity is obtained by dividing the volumetric flow rate by the crosssectional area as shown below.
(12)
vz,avg =
= P R2 = 1 vz,max
R
vz 2 r dr = 2 R
0
vz r dr
R2 0
8L
2

2 r dr

Thus, the ratio of the average velocity to the maximum velocity for Newtonian fluid flow
in a circular tube is .
(iii) The mass rate of flow is obtained by integrating the velocity profile over the cross
section of the circular tube as follows.
R
w = vz 2 r dr = R2 vz,avg
0

(13)

Thus, the mass flow rate is the product of the density , the cross-sectional area ( R2)
and the average velocity vz,avg. On substituting vz,avg from equation (12), the final
expression for the mass rate of flow is
P R4
w =

(14)
8L

The flow rate vs. pressure drop (w vs. P) expression above is well-known as the HagenPoiseuille equation. It is a result worth noting because it provides the starting point for
flow in many systems (e.g., flow in slightly tapered tubes).
c)
Step. Force along tube wall
The z-component of the force, Fz, exerted by the fluid on the tube wall is given by the
shear stress integrated over the wetted surface area. Therefore, on using equation (9),
Fz = (2 R L) rz| r = R = R2 P = R2 p + R2 g L cos

where the pressure difference p = p0 pL. The above equation simply states that the
viscous force is balanced by the net pressure force and the gravity force.

(15)

Related Problems in Transport Phenomena - Fluid Mechanics :


Transport Phenomena - Fluid Mechanics Problem : Newtonian fluid flow in a slightly
tapered tube
- Determination of mass flow rate for Newtonian fluid in slightly tapered tube of changing radius rather
than constant radius

Transport Phenomena - Fluid Mechanics Problem : Power law fluid flow in circular tube
- Determination of shear stress, velocity profile and mass flow rate for power law fluid rather than
Newtonian fluid

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Transport Phenomena - Fluid Mechanics Problem :


Newtonian fluid flow in a slightly tapered tube
http://www.syvum.com/cgi/online/serve.cgi/eng/fluid/fluid203.html?0

Problem.
A fluid (of constant density ) is in incompressible, laminar flow through a tube of length
L. The radius of the tube of circular cross section changes linearly from R0 at the tube
entrance (z = 0) to a slightly smaller value RL at the tube exit (z = L).

Figure. Fluid flow in a slightly tapered tube.


Using the lubrication approximation, determine the mass flow rate vs. pressure drop (w
vs. P) relationship for a Newtonian fluid (of constant viscosity ).

Solution.
Click here for stepwise solution
Step. Hagen-Poiseuille equation and lubrication approximation

The mass flow rate vs. pressure drop (w vs. P) relationship for a Newtonian fluid in a
circular tube of constant radius R is (click here for derivation)
P R 4
w =

(1)
8L

The above equation, which is the famous Hagen-Poiseuille equation, may be re-arranged
as
P

8w 1
=

(2)
R

For the tapered tube, note that the mass flow rate w does not change with axial distance z.
If the above equation is assumed to be approximately valid for a differential length dz of
the tube whose radius R is slowly changing with axial distance z, then it may be rewritten as
dP

8w

=
dz

(3)

[R(z)]

The approximation used above where a flow between non-parallel surfaces is treated
locally as a flow between parallel surfaces is commonly called the lubrication
approximation because it is often employed in the theory of lubrication. The lubrication
approximation, simply speaking, is a local application of a one-dimensional solution and
therefore may be referred to as a quasi-one-dimensional approach.
Equation (3) may be integrated to obtain the pressure drop across the tube on substituting
the taper function R(z), which is determined next.
Step. Taper function
As the tube radius R varies linearly from R0 at the tube entrance (z = 0) to RL at the tube
exit (z = L), the taper function may be expressed as R(z) = R0 + (RL R0) z / L. On
differentiating with respect to z, we get
dR = RL R0

(4)

dz

Step. Pressure P as a function of radius R


Equation (3) is readily integrated with respect to radius R rather than axial distance z.
Using equation (4) to eliminate dz from equation (3) yields
8w

dR

( dP ) =

(5)

RL R0

Integrating the above equation between z = 0 and z = L, we get


PL

RL

8w

RL R0

(dP ) =

P0

P0 PL

8w
=

R0

3 (RL R0 ) R03

dR
(6)
R4

(7)

RL3

Equation (7) may be re-arranged into the following standard form in terms of mass flow
rate:
P R0 4
w =
8L

3 ( 1)
1 3

P R0 4
=
8L

3 3

1 + + 2

(8)

where the taper ratio RL / R0. The term in square brackets on the right-hand side of the
above equation may be viewed as a taper correction to equation (1).

Related Problems in Transport Phenomena - Fluid Mechanics :

Transport Phenomena - Fluid Mechanics Problem : Newtonian fluid flow in a circular


tube
- Determination of shear stress, velocity profile and mass flow rate for tube of constant radius rather than
changing radius

Transport Phenomena - Fluid Mechanics Problem : Power law fluid flow in a slightly
tapered tube
- Determination of mass flow rate in slightly tapered tube for power law fluid rather than Newtonian fluid

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