A simple but groundbreaking experiment performed more than 70 years ago finally has been explained by scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The solution sheds new light on fluid turbulence -- the last major unsolved problem in classical physics.
"Turbulence is the jittery, swirling behavior of a gas or liquid when flowing next to a wall or around an obstacle," said Gustavo Gioia, a professor of theoretical and applied mechanics at Illinois. "Although most of the flows that surround us in everyday life are turbulent flows over rough walls, these flows have remained one of the least understood phenomena of classical physics."
In 1933, Johann Nikuradse carefully measured the friction a fluid experiences as it is forced through a pipe at varying speeds. Nikuradse found that the friction gets smaller as the speed gets larger, but then surprisingly increases at high speeds before attaining a constant value. This mysterious behavior, which must be taken into account by engineers in applications ranging from airplanes to oil pipelines, has now been explained.
James E. Kloeppel | EurekAlert!
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