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9.1.3: Dimensional Parameters Application for Experimental Study

The solutions for any situations which are controlled by the same governing equations with same boundary conditions regardless of the origin the equation. The solutions are similar or identical regardless to the origin of the field no matter if the field is physical, or economical, or biological. The Buckingham's technique implicitly suggested that since the governing equations (in fluid mechanics) are essentially are the same, just knowing the parameters is enough the identify the problem. This idea alludes to connections between similar parameters to similar solution. The non–dimensionalization i.e. operation of reducing the number affecting parameters, has a useful by–product, the analogy in other words, the solution by experiments or other cases. The analogy or similitude refers to understanding one phenomenon from the study of another phenomenon. This technique is employed in many fluid mechanics situations. For example, study of compressible flow (a flow where the density change plays a significant part) can be achieved by study of surface of open channel flow. The compressible flow is also similar to traffic on the highway. Thus for similar governing equations if the solution exists for one case it is a solution to both cases. The analogy can be used to conduct experiment in a cheaper way and/or a safer way. Experiments in different scale than actual dimensions can be conducted for cases where the actual dimensions are difficult to handle. For example, study of large air planes can done on small models. On the other situations, larger models are used to study small or fast situations. This author believes that at the present the Buckingham method has extremely limited use for the real world and yet this method is presented in the classes on fluid mechanics. Thus, many examples on the use of this method will be presented in this book. On the other hand, Nusselt's method has a larger practical use in the real world and therefore will be presented for those who need dimensional analysis for the real world. Dimensional analysis is useful also for those who are dealing with the numerical research/calculation. This method supplement knowledge when some parameters should be taken into account and why.

Fig. 9.1 Fitting rod into a hole.

Fitting a rod into a circular hole (see Figure 9.1) is an example how dimensional analysis can be used. To solve this problem, it is required to know two parameters; 1) the rode diameter and 2) the diameter of the hole. Actually, it is required to have only one parameter, the ratio of the rode diameter to the hole diameter. The ratio is a dimensionless number and with this number one can tell that for a ratio larger than one, the rode will not enter the hole; and a ratio smaller than one, the rod is too small. Only when the ratio is equal to one, the rode is said to be fit. This presentation allows one to draw or present the situation by using only one coordinate, the radius ratio. Furthermore, if one wants to deal with tolerances, the dimensional analysis can easily be extended to say that when the ratio is equal from 0.99 to 1.0 the rode is fitting, and etc. If one were to use the two diameters description, further significant information will be needed. In the preceding simplistic example, the advantages are minimal. In many real problems this approach can remove clattered views and put the problem into focus. Throughout this book the reader will notice that the systems/equations in many cases are converted to a dimensionless form to augment understanding.


  • Dr. Genick Bar-Meir. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or later or Potto license.