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Have you ever wondered how an airplane can fly? The simple answer is that as air flows around the wing, the
plane is pushed up by higher pressure air under the wing, compared to lower pressure over the wing. But to
understand this phenomenon more deeply, we must look at a branch of physics known as fluid mechanics,
and in particular a principle known as the Bernoulli equation. Not only can this equation predict the air
pressure around an airplane's wing, but it can also be used to find the force of high winds on a skyscraper, the
pressure through a chemical reactor, or even the speed of water coming out of the hose in your backyard.


Bernoulli's principle, sometimes known as Bernoulli's equation, holds that for fluids in an ideal state, pressure
and density are inversely related: in other words, a slow-moving fluid exerts more pressure than a fast-moving
fluid. Since "fluid" in this context applies equally to liquids and gases, the principle has as many applications
with regard to airflow as to the flow of liquids. One of the most dramatic everyday examples of Bernoulli's
principle can be found in the airplane, which stays aloft due to pressure differences on the surface of its wing;
but the truth of the principle is also illustrated in something as mundane as a shower curtain that billows


The Swiss mathematician and physicist Daniel Bernoulli (1700-1782) discovered the principle that bears his
name while conducting experiments concerning an even more fundamental concept: the conservation of

Bernoulli was one of the first scientists to propose what is known as the kinetic theory of gases: that gas, like
all matter, is composed of tiny molecules in constant motion. In the 1730s, he conducted experiments in the
conservation of energy using liquids, observing how water flows through pipes of varying diameter. In a
segment of pipe with a relatively large diameter, he observed, water flowed slowly, but as it entered a
segment of smaller diameter, its speed increased.

As fluid moves from a wider pipe to a narrower one, the volume of that fluid that moves a given distance in a
given time period does not change. But since the width of the narrower pipe is smaller, the fluid must move
faster in order to achieve that result. One way to illustrate this is to observe the behavior of a river: in a wide,
unconstricted region, it flows slowly, but if its flow is narrowed by canyon walls (for instance), then it speeds
up dramatically.

The above is a result of the fact that water is a fluid, and having the characteristics of a fluid, it adjusts its
shape to fit that of its container or other solid objects it encounters on its path. Since the volume passing
through a given length of pipe during a given period of time will be the same, there must be a decrease in
pressure. Hence Bernoulli's conclusion: the slower the rate of flow, the higher the pressure, and the faster the
rate of flow, the lower the pressure.

Bernoulli published the results of his work in Hydrodynamica (1738), but did not present his ideas or their
implications clearly. Later, his friend the German mathematician Leonhard Euler (1707-1783) generalized his
findings in the statement known today as Bernoulli's principle.
Bernoulli discovers how to measure blood pressure
Together Bernoulli and Euler tried to discover more about the flow of fluids. In particular, they wanted to
know about the relationship between the speed at which blood flows and its pressure. To investigate this,
Daniel experimented by puncturing the wall of a pipe with a small open ended straw and noted that the height
to which the fluid rose up the straw was related to fluid's pressure in the pipe.

Soon physicians all over Europe were measuring patients blood pressure by sticking point-ended
glass tubes directly into their arteries. It was not until about 170 years later, in 1896 that an Italian
doctor discovered a less painful method which is still in use today. However, Bernoulli's method of
measuring pressure is still used today in modern aircraft to measure the speed of the air passing the
plane; that is its air speed.


Lesson Background and Concepts for Teachers

The Bernoulli equation is an important expression relating pressure, height and velocity of a fluid at one point
along its flow. The relationship between these fluid conditions along a streamline always equal the same
constant along that streamline in an idealized system. An idealized system refers to a fluid that has a constant
density (incompressible), and is inviscid.
Assuming that the fluid is inviscid means that it has no viscosity. Therefore, certain effects of viscosity, such as
water sticking to the walls of its pipe or container, do not apply.
Because the Bernoulli equation is equal to a constant at all points along a streamline, we can equate two
points on a streamline. Using information on the system at one point, we can solve for information at another.
Limitations of the Applications of Bernoulli’s Equation

One of the restrictions is that some amount of energy will be lost due to internal friction during fluid flow. This is
because fluid has separate layers and each layer of fluid will flow with different velocities. Thus, each layer will
exert some amount of frictional force on the other layer thereby losing energy in the process.

The proper term for this property of the fluid is viscosity. Now, what happens to the kinetic energy lost in the
process? The kinetic energy of the fluid lost in the process will change into heat energy. Therefore, we can easily
conclude that Bernoulli’s principle is applicable to non-viscous fluids (fluids with no viscosity).

Another major limitation of this principle is the requirement of the incompressible fluid. Thus, the equation does
not consider the elastic energy of the fluid. However, elastic energy plays a very important role in various
applications. It also helps us to understand the concepts related to low viscosity incompressible fluids.

Furthermore, Bernoulli’s principle is not possible in turbulent flows. This is because the pressure and velocity are
constantly fluctuating in case of turbulent flow.

The Bernoulli’s equation can be considered to be a statement of the conservation of energy

principle appropriate for flowing fluids. It is one of the most important/useful equations in fluid mechanics. It
puts into a relation pressure and velocity in an inviscid incompressible flow. Bernoulli’s equation has some
restrictions in its applicability, they summarized in following points:

 steady flow system,

 density is constant (which also means the fluid is incompressible),
 no work is done on or by the fluid,
 no heat is transferred to or from the fluid,
 no change occurs in the internal energy,
 the equation relates the states at two points along a single streamline (not conditions on two different

Under these conditions, the general energy equation is simplified to:

This equation is the most famous equation in fluid dynamics. The Bernoulli’s equation describes the
qualitative behaviour flowing fluid that is usually labelled with the term Bernoulli’s effect. This effect
causes the lowering of fluid pressure in regions where the flow velocity is increased. This lowering of
pressure in a constriction of a flow path may seem counterintuitive, but seems less so when you
consider pressure to be energy density. In the high-velocity flow through the constriction, kinetic
energy must increase at the expense of pressure energy. The dimensions of terms in the equation are
kinetic energy per unit volume.