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What is fluid friction?

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Fluid friction is the resistance to an object's motion through a liquid or gas. When the motion is occurring in a liquid, it is referred to as viscous resistance. Resistance to an object moving through a gas, such as air, is termed air friction.

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The concepts of fluid friction vary depending on whether the motion is taking place in a liquid or gas. One item that both media share is that the resistance to motion contributes to an object reaching its terminal velocity. This occurs when the resistance from a gas or fluid is equal to the weight of the object, and it remains constant until another force is introduced.

For motion in a liquid, viscous resistance caused by a drag force is proportional to the velocity of the object at slow speeds. This drag force is based on the object's geometry and the viscosity of the liquid, which can vary between fluids. For motion through air, friction at slow speeds is proportional to the velocity. At higher speeds, the drag force depends on the cross-sectional area of an object, the object's density and the drag coefficient. This drag force has a negative value, as the resistance is always opposite the direction of velocity.

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In roller coasters, friction is a force that opposes motion and significantly slows the cars as they move on the track. While it is easy to believe that friction is bad for the ride, it is one of the forces engineers consider in ensuring passengers have a safe ride.

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Friction allows objects in motion to return to a state of rest. Without friction, an object set in motion would be unable to stop moving.

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Friction is a resistive, physical-contact force that impedes motion. It occurs as a result of microscopically uneven surfaces, which are present even when the surfaces appear smooth to the human eye. If surfaces were perfectly smooth and in a vacuum, friction would not exist.