How to demonstrate laminar flow at home

Demonstrate Laminar Flow at Home with this Water Optical Illusion

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What if we told you that you could freeze time with just a balloon, tape, and some water? Now what if we showed you how to demonstrate laminar flow at home?

We promise this isn’t CGI magic or a trick of the camera. What you are seeing is a particularly interesting fluid dynamic, which is a scientific way of saying the flow of a fluid (which is any liquid or gas), called laminar flow. 

 

Below we are going to explore the following questions: What is laminar flow? What is laminar flow used for in everyday life? And most importantly, how can you demonstrate laminar flow at home? 

Laminar flow demonstration GIF

What is Laminar Flow? 

Laminar flow is a type of flow pattern of a fluid in which all the particles are flowing in parallel linesopposed to turbulent flow, where the particles flow in random and chaotic directions. A flow is either turbulent, laminar, or somewhere in between. This is measured by the Reynolds number which is a ratio between velocity (the speed of the flowand viscosity (how thick or thin the fluid is). The more viscous, or thick, the fluid is the faster it can flow without going turbulent 

 

What is Laminar Flow Used For?

 

Laminar flow has a wide range of real-life applications. A type of laminar flow is achieved everyday by pilots. A smooth flight occurs when the flow of the air over an aircraft’s wings is laminar. If the pilot runs into a very turbulent patch of air the wing cannot correct the air to make it laminar, causing turbulence.

 

A different example of laminar flow occurs everyday inside of you. Blood flowing throughout your body is flowing laminarly. 

 

One last example of laminar flow is syrup, or honey, flowing out the nozzle. Because the liquid is so thick, or viscous, the Reynolds number indicates that the flow is very laminar.  

How Can I Demonstrate Laminar Flow at Home?

The following video and steps below it are detailed for you to try and recreate laminar flow at home. 

 

Adult supervision is required as this experiment involves the usage of sharp and potentially dangerous objects.

  • Step One: Gather the following materials: 
    • One balloon 
    • Duct Tape or electrical tape 
    • Water 
    • A sharp object (to pierce the balloon)

  • Step Two: Fill the balloon with water and tie it off.


  • Step Three: Make a square on your balloon out of tape.
    Make sure you pat down the 
    tape, so its smoothly secured. Different sized squares result in different sized flows.
  • Step Four: With adult assistance pierce the balloon inside the square with your sharp object and watch as the water flows out laminarly 

 

How did it go? Try taking your own spin on the experiment, does the amount of water change the results? How about where you place the square? Do you think you can get multiple flows to happen on the same balloon?  

 

If you tried to demonstrate laminar flow at home, be sure you submit you photos and videos of your experiments to our Science Showcase here or tag Orlando Science Center on social media and use hashtag #OSCatHome for a chance to be featured on our channels!  

 

Until next time, STAY CURIOUS! 

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