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Concept# Boundary layer thickness

Summary

This page describes some of the parameters used to characterize the thickness and shape of boundary layers formed by fluid flowing along a solid surface. The defining characteristic of boundary layer flow is that at the solid walls, the fluid's velocity is reduced to zero. The boundary layer refers to the thin transition layer between the wall and the bulk fluid flow. The boundary layer concept was originally developed by Ludwig Prandtl and is broadly classified into two types, bounded and unbounded. The differentiating property between bounded and unbounded boundary layers is whether the boundary layer is being substantially influenced by more than one wall. Each of the main types has a laminar, transitional, and turbulent sub-type. The two types of boundary layers use similar methods to describe the thickness and shape of the transition region with a couple of exceptions detailed in the Unbounded Boundary Layer Section. The characterizations detailed below consider steady flow but is easily extended to unsteady flow.
Bounded boundary layers is a name used to designate fluid flow along an interior wall such that the other interior walls induce a pressure effect on the fluid flow along the wall under consideration. The defining characteristic of this type of boundary layer is that the velocity profile normal to the wall often smoothly asymptotes to a constant velocity value denoted as ue(x). The bounded boundary layer concept is depicted for steady flow entering the lower half of a thin flat plate 2-D channel of height H in Figure 1 (the flow and the plate extends in the positive/negative direction perpendicular to the x-y-plane). Examples of this type of boundary layer flow occur for fluid flow through most pipes, channels, and wind tunnels. The 2-D channel depicted in Figure 1 is stationary with fluid flowing along the interior wall with time-averaged velocity u(x,y) where x is the flow direction and y is the normal to the wall.

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