A theoretical study was performed addressing the degree of applicability or inapplicability, to a real gas, of the occasionally stated belief that for an ideal gas, incompressibility is synonymous with a zero or very low Mach number. The measure of compressibility used in this study is the magnitude of the divergence of the flow velocity vector [∇·u (where u is the flow velocity)]. The study involves a mathematical derivation that begins with the governing equations of flow and involves consideration of equations of state, thermodynamics, and fluxes of heat, mass, and the affected molecular species. The derivation leads to an equation for the volume integral of (∇·u )2 that indicates contributions of several thermodynamic, hydrodynamic, and species-flux effects to compressibility and reveals differences between real and ideal gases. An analysis of the equation leads to the conclusion that for a real gas, incompressibility is not synonymous with zero or very small Mach number. Therefore, it is further concluded, the contributions to compressibility revealed by the derived equation should be taken into account in simulations of real-gas flows.

This work was done by Josette Bellan of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-46113

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the October, 2009 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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