In physics and engineering, fluid dynamics is a subdiscipline of fluid mechanics that describes the flow of fluids´liquids and gases. It has several subdisciplines, including aerodynamics (the study of air and other gases in motion) and hydrodynamics (the study of liquids in motion). Fluid dynamics has a wide range of applications, including calculating forces and moments on aircraft, determining the mass flow rate of petroleum through pipelines, predicting weather patterns, understanding nebulae in interstellar space and modelling fission weapon detonation.
In addition to the above, fluids are assumed to obey the continuum assumption. Fluids are composed of molecules that collide with one another and solid objects. However, the continuum assumption assumes that fluids are continuous, rather than discrete. Consequently, it is assumed that properties such as density, pressure, temperature, and flow velocity are well-defined at infinitesimally small points in space and vary continuously from one point to another. The fact that the fluid is made up of discrete molecules is ignored.
For flow of gases, to determine whether to use compressible or incompressible fluid dynamics, the Mach number of the flow is evaluated. As a rough guide, compressible effects can be ignored at Mach numbers below approximately 0.3. For liquids, whether the incompressible assumption is valid depends on the fluid properties (specifically the critical pressure and temperature of the fluid) and the flow conditions (how close to the critical pressure the actual flow pressure becomes). Acoustic problems always require allowing compressibility, since sound waves are compression waves involving changes in pressure and density of the medium through which they propagate.
In contrast, high Reynolds numbers (Re>>1) indicate that the inertial effects have more effect on the velocity field than the viscous (friction) effects. In high Reynolds number flows, the flow is often modeled as an inviscid flow, an approximation in which viscosity is completely neglected. Eliminating viscosity allows the Navier¥Stokes equations to be simplified into the Euler equations. The integration of the Euler equations along a streamline in an inviscid flow yields Bernoulli's equation. When, in addition to being inviscid, the flow is irrotational everywhere, Bernoulli's equation can completely describe the flow everywhere. Such flows are called potential flows, because the velocity field may be expressed as the gradient of a potential energy expression.
A flow that is not a function of time is called steady flow. Steady-state flow refers to the condition where the fluid properties at a point in the system do not change over time. Time dependent flow is known as unsteady (also called transient). Whether a particular flow is steady or unsteady, can depend on the chosen frame of reference. For instance, laminar flow over a sphere is steady in the frame of reference that is stationary with respect to the sphere. In a frame of reference that is stationary with respect to a background flow, the flow is unsteady.
Turbulence is flow characterized by recirculation, eddies, and apparent randomness. Flow in which turbulence is not exhibited is called laminar. The presence of eddies or recirculation alone does not necessarily indicate turbulent flow´these phenomena may be present in laminar flow as well. Mathematically, turbulent flow is often represented via a Reynolds decomposition, in which the flow is broken down into the sum of an average component and a perturbation component.
While many flows (e.g. flow of water through a pipe) occur at low Mach numbers, many flows of practical interest in aerodynamics or in turbomachines occur at high fractions of M=1 (transonic flows) or in excess of it (supersonic or even hypersonic flows). New phenomena occur at these regimes such as instabilities in transonic flow, shock waves for supersonic flow, or non-equilibrium chemical behaviour due to ionization in hypersonic flows. In practice, each of those flow regimes is treated separately.
Relativistic fluid dynamics studies the macroscopic and microscopic fluid motion at large velocities comparable to the velocity of light. This branch of fluid dynamics accounts for the relativistic effects both from the special theory of relativity and the general theory of relativity. The governing equations are derived in Riemannian geometry for Minkowski spacetime.