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Boundary Layer Equations

Prof. Rohit Goyal

Professor, Department of Civil Engineering
Malaviya National Institute of Technology Jaipur

Topics Covered

Different Boundary Layer Thickness

Nominal Thickness
Displacement Thickness
Momentum Thickness
Energy Thickness
Equations for different BL thickness
Boundary Layer Equations
Nominal Thickness ()
Nominal thickness of the boundary layer
is defined as the thickness of zone
extending from solid boundary to a point
where velocity is 99% of the free stream
velocity (U)
This is arbitrary, especially because
transition from 0 velocity at boundary to
the U outside the boundary takes place
It is based on the fact that beyond this
boundary, effect of viscous stresses can
be neglected.
Other Definitions of BL Thickness

Many other definitions of boundary layer

thickness has been introduced at
different times and provide important
concepts based on mathematical
calculations and logic
These definitions are
Displacement Thickness (*)
Momentum Thickness ()
Energy Thickness (e)
Displacement Thickness

Presence of boundary layer introduces

a retardation to the free stream
velocity in the neighborhood of the
This causes a decrease in mass flow
rate due to presence of boundary layer
A velocity defect of (U-u) exists at a
distance y along y axis
Displacement Thickness

Displacement thickness may be thought of as the

distance (measured perpendicular to the
boundary) with which the boundary may be
imagined to have been shifted such that the
actual flow rate would be the same as that of an
ideal fluid (with slip) flowing around the displaced
This may be imagined in as explained in figures
on next page

Velocity Distribution


Velocity Ideal Fluid

Defect Flow


Velocity Defect Equivalent Flow Rate

Eqn. for Displacement Thickness

By equating the flow rate for velocity defect to

flow rate for ideal fluid

U U udy

If density is constant, this simplifies to


1 dy
* would always be smaller than

Momentum Thickness

Retardation of flow within boundary layer

causes a reduction in the momentum flux
So similar to displacement thickness, the
momentum thickness () is defined as
the thickness of an imaginary layer in free
stream flow which has momentum equal
to the deficiency of momentum caused to
actual mass flowing inside the boundary
Eqn. for Momentum Thickness

By equating the momentum flux rate for

velocity defect to that for ideal fluid

U udy U u

If density is constant, this simplifies to

u u
1 dy
0 U U
would always be smaller than * and

Graphical Representation

Energy Thickness

Similarly Energy thickness (e) is

defined as the thickness of an
imaginary layer in free stream flow
which has energy equal to the
deficiency of energy caused to actual
mass flowing inside the boundary

Eqn. for Energy Thickness

By equating the energy transport rate for velocity defect

to that for ideal fluid


U e udy U u

2 0
2 2

If density is constant, this simplifies to

u u

e 1 2 dy
0 U U

Boundary Layer Assumptions
Following assumptions are made for the analysis
of the boundary layer
It is assumed (also observed to great extend) that
Reynolds number of flows are large and the
thickness of boundary layer are small in
comparison with any characteristic dimension of
the boundary
The boundary is streamlined so that the flow
pattern and pressures determined by ideal flow
theory are accurate
It is possible to treat the flow at constant density
and isothermal conditions prevail so that viscosity
is also constant
Approximations Made

Using these assumptions following

approximations are made
The pressure does not vary across any given
section of the boundary layer. So pressure
determined by ideal fluid theory at the edge of
boundary holds within the boundary layer also
Since flow is essentially parallel so that the
shear stress are solely determined by
Newtons law of viscosity =(u/y)
Compared with thin boundary layer, the gentle
curvature of the boundary has practically no
influence on the flow properties
Coordinate System
Last approximations allows us to choose coordinate
system with x-axis along the curved body and y axis
along normal to boundary as shown below

Strictly speaking this coordinate system is curvilinear but

is expected to behave like a rectangular system in the
thin region of the boundary layer

Continuity Equation

Only steady two dimensional flow

is considered for simplicity
Continuity Equation in 2D is
u/x+v/y = 0

Where u and v are velocity

components in x and y axes
Momentum Equation

Since velocity component in y direction

is negligibly small so momentum
equation is considered only in x
Considering a small control volume of
sides x and y and thickness in the
third direction as unity is considered as
shown on next page.
Control Volume
Summation of Forces

Neglecting component of gravity in x-

direction, only pressure and shear stress as
shown on control volume are considered
There would be a negative shear stress on
lower face because layer below is trying to
retard the motion of particles within control
volume. Similarly shear stress on top
surface would be positive
Fx py p x x y x y y x

Forces in x-Direction

So total force in x direction

F py

p x
y x

y x

Using Newtons law of viscosity

p 2u
Fx x y 2 xy

This would be equal to change in rate of

momentum in x-direction
Change in rate of momentum
From Left and Right Faces

Mass entering the left face = uy

Momentum entering the left face =
Momentum leaving right face
= u2y + (u2y)/x x
= (u2+ u2/x x)y
From Top and Bottom faces
Mass entering from bottom face = vx
Momentum entering the bottom face =
Momentum leaving top face
= uvx + (uvx)/y y
= (uv+ (uv)/y y)x
Net momentum in x-direction
2 u 2 uv
u x y uv y x u 2 y uvx
x y
Net Rate of Momentum

Net momentum in x-direction simplifies to

u v u
2u u v xy
x y y

Using continuity equation v/y=-u/x

So the net rate of momentum
u u
u v xy
x y
Prandtl BL Equation

Equating net rate of momentum to forces

in x-direction
u u p 2u
u v xy 2 xy
x y x y

Which simplifies to
u u 1 p 2u
u v 2
x y x y
This is also referred as Prandtl BL Eqn.