The Complexity and Beauty of Fluid Dynamics

Do you ever take a moment to marvel at the inherent complexity and beauty of fluid flow? You don't have to go far, just look around. From the drip of a tap to the contrails left in the sky chasing a jetliner - it's easy to take for granted.

Water from a TapWater from a Tap

My fascination with fluid flow is its visual, fractal nature. Take a look at even a simple water stream from a tap or pollen floating on a puddle and you'll see ever more complexity the closer you look. A lot of the complexity we can see is due to the chaotic nature of turbulence. Yet for all the turbulence inherent in most fluid flow, there is still usually a dominant flow structure that can be put to good use. For example, we've harnessed the air flow over a wing to keep large airplanes aloft, and channeled water through hydroelectric turbines to generate vast quantities of electricity. Harnessing useful work from fluid flow is an engineering marvel that dates back to the dawn of civilization.

Pollen on a PuddlePollen Floating on a Puddle

A marvel of the computer age is the ability to simulate real world fluid flow using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) in a simplified virtual physics arena. While not able to exactly match the real world (due to limitations imposed even by the most powerful supercomputers), CFD in many cases is good enough to help reduce the number of physical prototypes in a design cycle. Another area where CFD is ably equipped to deliver is stunning 3D flow visualization, such as pressure contours, velocity vectors and streamlines.

Whether it's real or virtual, the complexity and beauty inherent in fluid flow is something to behold. Not convinced? Then try "efluids media galleries" until you are!