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Lesson: Viscous Fluids Contributed by: Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder
PreReq Knowledge (Return to Contents) Students should understand the content presented in the Mechanics of Elastic Solids lesson. They should also have an understanding of algebra, how to solve algebraic equations, and how to read and interpret graphs.
Learning Objectives (Return to Contents) After this lesson, students should be able to:
Introduction/Motivation (Return to Contents)
We previously talked about elastic solids; today we will learn about viscous fluids.
Let's review what we know about solids and fluids. What is a solid? What is a fluid? (Listen to student descriptions.) A solid is a material that has structural rigidity and resistance to change in shape or volume. In other words, solids maintain their shapes and do not form to their containers. A fluid, either liquid or gas, can flow to take the shape of its container. More formally, a fluid is a substance that continuously deforms or flows under an applied shear stress.
Shear stress is a little different than the stress we discussed in the solid mechanics lesson. To understand shear stress, first think of two blocks sliding against each other (draw Figure 1top on the classroom board). A force pushes towards the left on the top block and a force pushes to the right on the bottom block. The opposing forces on the different blocks cause the sliding motion.
Now imagine that instead of having two rigid blocks we have one block of JellO. When we apply similar forces on the JellO block, the deformation is similar to the two rigid blocks (draw Figure 1bottom). Imagine that the JellO is sliding internally. Since the JellO is a solid, it will only undergo a certain amount of deformation before either breaking or resisting the forces, which prohibits any further deformation. What the JellO experiences is defined as shear stress. Shear stress is experienced in materials when you have these "sliding" forces. Now imagine shear stress on a fluid. With a fluid, it will continuously deform—which is the definition of a fluid. In this lesson, we will learn how engineers study fluids and what similarities and differences this analysis has with solids.
Fluid mechanics is the study of how fluids react to forces. Fluid mechanics includes hydrodynamics, the study of force on liquids, and aerodynamics, the study of bodies moving through air. Fluid mechanics encompasses a wide variety of applications. Can you think of some examples? (Listen to student ideas.) Environmental engineers use fluid mechanics to study pollution dispersion, forest fires, volcano behavior, weather patterns to aid in longterm weather forecasting, and oceanography. Mechanical engineers implement fluid mechanics when designing sports equipment such as golf balls, footballs, baseballs, road bikes and swimming gear. Bioengineers study medical conditions such as blood flow through aneurysms. Aerospace engineers study gas turbines that launch space shuttles and civil engineers use fluid mechanics for dam design. With just these few examples of the wide variety of applications of fluid mechanics, you can see how fluid mechanics is an important area of study for many types of engineering.
(Continue on to present students with the content in the Lesson Background section.)
Lesson Background & Concepts for Teachers (Return to Contents) (optional: Be ready to show students the attached sevenslide Viscous Fluids Presentation PowerPoint, along with the information below. Also bring to class a bottle of honey and a bottle of water to show students.)
Pass around the class a bottle of honey and a bottle of water (or ask students to imagine these two fluids). Have students compare the properties of each and give some examples of why fluids with these properties might be useful in some systems and why they would not work in other systems. Examples: A thick fluid, such as toothpaste, stays on a toothbrush, whereas a fluid that moves easily like water just runs off. A fluid like water might be useful in a thermometer because it is easy to move and does not leave any residue on its container. If a fluid like honey was used in a thermometer, it would stick to the sides and cause difficulty in reading the measurement gauge. Can you think of other example applications?
From examining and comparing these two fluids, we can conclude that the honey is good at coating things and the water is good if you need a fluid to move with little force. What we just observed is a difference in viscosity. Fluids with different viscosities can be useful for different applications.
Viscosity is how engineers measure the resistance of fluids to shear stress. Lessviscous fluids deform easier with applied shear, thus water is less viscous than honey. Engineers calculate the viscosity of a fluid with the following equation:
where τ (tao) is the shear stress in the fluid, μ (nu) is the viscosity, and du/dy is the shear velocity of the fluid. The shear stress of a fluid is defined in a similar manner as stress in a solid: force divided by area. The above equation is very similar to the Hooke's law equation (discussed in the Mechanics of Elastic Solids lesson):
where σ (sigma) is the stress in the solid, E is Young's modulus, and ε is the strain that the solid experiences. In each equation, the stress in the material (caused by a force on the material) is equal to a material property (Young's modulus or viscosity) multiplied by either the strain or velocity of the material, which tells something about the response of the material to the force (either moving the material or deforming it). Therefore, the Young's modulus and viscosity are similar in that they both measure a material's resistance to deformation (or movement).
The viscosity equation is useful for calculating a material's viscosity when you know the force being applied to the fluid and the resulting velocity. Knowing the viscosity helps engineers know how a fluid will behave under different circumstances. Engineers also use this equation when designing devices. By using a fluid with a known viscosity and applying a force to it, engineers can calculate how fast the fluid will move. Here are examples of how this equation can be used to help engineers with real situations:
Measuring Viscosity How do engineers determine the viscosity of fluids? We know that mechanical testing systems calculate Young's modulus by deforming a material and recording the force applied and the displacement that the material undergoes. Young's modulus is similar to viscosity, so engineers use similar methods to calculate the properties of fluids. Engineers primarily use one of two methods, depending on whether the fluid is Newtonian or not.
Fluid Behavior Using a rheometer or a drop ball test, engineers collect the data needed to create shear stress (τ) vs. rate of shearing strain diagrams (du/dy). The shear stress is calculated using the force data, and the rate of shearing strain is calculated using the deformation data. This is similar to a stressstrain diagram with solids. When engineers test solids and generate stressstrain diagrams, they calculate the slope of the initial line (covered in more detail in the Mechanics of Elastic Solids lesson), which is equal to the Young's modulus or stiffness of the material. With fluids, engineers also calculate the slope of the line formed on the shear stressrate of shearing strain diagram. This value is equal to the viscosity of the fluid.
Looking at the resulting diagrams, engineers can identify four fluid behaviors: Bingham plastic, Newtonian, shear thinning, and shear thickening (see Figure 3).
Bingham plastic materials behave as solids at low stresses, but flow as viscous fluids at high stresses. Because the particles in these materials have weak bonds, at high stresses they break, causing them to flow and be characterized as fluids. When the stress is relieved, the bonds form again, characterizing the materials as solids. Two material properties are needed to describe this material: viscosity and yield stress. The slope of the shear stressrate of shearing strain diagram is the viscosity (as described above) and the intersection of the yaxis (shear stress axis) is the yield stress. The yield stress defines the transition point between solid and liquid.
Newtonian fluids are identified by linear plots in the diagram, which means that these fluids have constant viscosities that are independent of velocity (rate of shear). Regardless of how fast or slow you stir these liquids, they always require the same proportional forces.
For shear thinning materials, viscosity decreases as velocity (rate of shear) increases. As you stir this type of fluid faster, it becomes much easier to stir. While scientists do not fully understand the cause of this phenomenon, engineers have used fluids with this behavior to their advantage.
For shear thickening materials, viscosity increases as velocity (rate of shear) increases. As you stir this type of fluid faster, it becomes much harder to stir. This is due to closely packed particles combined with just enough fluid to fill the spaces between them. At low velocities, the fluid dominates the behavior and is able to continue to adequately fill the spaces between the particles because they are not moving fast. At high velocities, the fluid cannot keep up with the particle movement and is unable to fill the spaces between them, so the particles to rub against each other creating friction between them. Engineers have also used this phenomenon to improve our lives.
Vocabulary/Definitions (Return to Contents)
Associated Activities (Return to Contents)
Lesson Closure (Return to Contents) In conclusion, fluids exhibit very similar behavior to elastic solids and can therefore be analyzed with similar equations. One way of characterizing fluids is by their viscosities, which is a measure of a fluid's resistance to shear stress.
How do engineers measure viscosity? They measure viscosity either by dropping a ball in the fluid and measuring the amount of time it takes the ball to travel through the fluid, or by using a rheometer. If a fluid has a constant viscosity with varying velocities, then it is defined as a Newtonian fluid. If the fluid has different viscosities with varying velocities then it could be defined as shear thinning, shear thickening, or Bingham plastic.
Understanding fluid behavior is important to engineers; it helps them select the optimum fluids to operate in devices that they are designing and create devices that are able to efficiently operate in environments that contain fluids.
Attachments (Return to Contents) Assessment (Return to Contents)
Worksheet: After presentation of the lesson content, have students complete the attached Viscosity Worksheet. Review their answers to gauge their mastery of the subject matter.
Contributors Brandi N. Briggs, Michael A. Soltys, Marissa H. ForbesCopyright © 2011 by Regents of the University of ColoradoSupporting Program (Return to Contents) Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado BoulderAcknowledgements (Return to Contents) This digital library content was developed by the Integrated Teaching and Learning Program under National Science Foundation GK12 grant no. DGE 0946502. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.
 
 