Reader Questions

Reader Question: Froude vs. Reynolds

@spooferbarnabas asks: I was wondering what the difference is between Froude’s number and Reynold’s number? they seem very similar

Fluid dynamicists often use nondimensional numbers to characterize different flows because it’s possible to find similarity in their behaviors this way. The Reynolds number is the most common of these dimensionless numbers and is equal to (fluid density)*(mean fluid velocity)*(characteristic length)/(fluid dynamic viscosity). The Reynolds number is considered a ratio of total momentum (or inertial forces) to the molecular momentum (or viscous forces). A small Reynolds number indicates a flow dominated by viscosity; whereas a flow with a large Reynolds number is considered one where viscous forces have little effect.

The Froude number, in contrast, focuses on resistance to flow caused by gravitational effects, not molecular effects. It is defined as (mean fluid velocity)/(characteristic wave propagation velocity). Initially, it was developed to describe the resistance of a model floating in water when towed at a given speed. As the boat’s hull moves through the water, it creates a wave that travels forward (and backward in the form of the wake), carrying information about the boat–much like pressure waves travel before and behind a subsonic aircraft. The speed of the wave created by the boat depends on gravity (see shallow water waves). The closer the boat’s speed comes to the water wave’s speed, the greater the resistance the boat experiences. In this respect, the Froude number is actually analogous to the Mach number in compressible fluids.

I hope that helps explain some of the differences!

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