Geometric Constant in Air Resistance
I wish to find the air resistance on a flat plate
(which is perpendicular to the direction of air flow) using the
formula of R= KpSV^2, where p represents the density of air, S the
frontal area of the body, and V the velocity. I am told that K is
a coefficient depending on the shape of the body and found by
experiment. I do not fully understand what it is and have no idea
how to find it in an experiment. Also, I do not know how to get the
The study of the drag of objects in air is a subset of the branch of
engineering known as "fluid mechanics."
For ordinary speeds in air, the following equation seems to work. Drag
force = Cd * A * p * V^2 /2. Where A is the frontal area, V is the speed,
p (rho) is the density of the air and Cd is the drag coefficient. This is
similar to your equation except for the factor of two. The density of air
is about 1.225 kg/m3.
Cd is small or large depending on whether the object is shaped to allow to
pass easily through the air or not. For example, a rough sphere has Cd of
0.4. A flat plate 1.17. A cube 1.05 (flat face facing wind). An airplane
about 0.012. A car about 0.3. A truck about 0.9. An upright person about
1.2. A sports motorcycle 0.6. A parachute 1.42. A "streamlined body" is
shaped to have as low a drag coefficient as possible and is about 0.04.
That equation is only approximate. Other factors that can influence drag
are speed and roughness. Different equations are used for drag in water,
drag at supersonic speeds, or drag at very low speeds.
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Update: June 2012