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11: Fluid Statics

Fluid statics is the branch of fluid mechanics that studies incompressible fluids at rest. It encompasses the study of the conditions under which fluids are at rest in stable equilibrium as opposed to fluid dynamics, the study of fluids in motion.

  • 11.0: Prelude to Fluid Statics
    What exactly is a fluid? Can we understand fluids with the laws already presented, or will new laws emerge from their study? The physical characteristics of static or stationary fluids and some of the laws that govern their behavior are the topics of this chapter.
  • 11.1: What Is a Fluid?
    A fluid is a state of matter that yields to sideways or shearing forces. Liquids and gases are both fluids. Fluid statics is the physics of stationary fluids.
  • 11.2: Density
    Density, as you will see, is an important characteristic of substances. It is crucial, for example, in determining whether an object sinks or floats in a fluid. Density is the mass per unit volume of a substance or object.
  • 11.3: Pressure
    Pressure is the force per unit perpendicular area over which the force is applied. In equation form, pressure is defined as \[F = PA.\] The SI unit of pressure is pascal and \(1 \space Pa = 1 \space N/m^2.\)
  • 11.4: Variation of Pressure with Depth in a Fluid
    Pressure is the weight of the fluid \(mg\) divided by the area \(A\) supporting it (the area of the bottom of the container): \[P = \dfrac{mg}{A}.\] Pressure due to the weight of a liquid is given by \[P = h\rho g,\] where \(P\) is the pressure, \(h\) is the height of the liquid, \(\rho\) is the density of the liquid, and \(g\) is the acceleration due to the gravity.
  • 11.5: Pascal’s Principle
    Pressure is force per unit area. A change in pressure applied to an enclosed fluid is transmitted undiminished to all portions of the fluid and to the walls of its container. A hydraulic system is an enclosed fluid system used to exert forces. Since atoms in a fluid are free to move about in an enclosed fluid, they transmit the pressure to all parts of the fluid and to the walls of the container. Remarkably, the pressure is transmitted undiminished. This phenomenon is called Pascal’s principle.
  • 11.6: Gauge Pressure, Absolute Pressure, and Pressure Measurement
    Gauge pressure is the pressure relative to atmospheric pressure. Absolute pressure is the sum of gauge pressure and atmospheric pressure. Aneroid gauge measures pressure using a bellows-and-spring arrangement connected to the pointer of a calibrated scale. Open-tube manometers have U-shaped tubes and one end is always open. It is used to measure pressure. A mercury barometer is a device that measures atmospheric pressure.
  • 11.7: Archimedes’ Principle
    Buoyant force is the net upward force on any object in any fluid. If the buoyant force is greater than the object’s weight, the object will rise to the surface and float. If the buoyant force is less than the object’s weight, the object will sink. If the buoyant force equals the object’s weight, the object will remain suspended at that depth. The buoyant force is always present whether the object floats, sinks, or is suspended in a fluid. Archimedes’ principle states that the buoyant force on an
  • 11.8: Cohesion and Adhesion in Liquids - Surface Tension and Capillary Action
    Attractive forces between molecules of the same type are called cohesive forces. Attractive forces between molecules of different types are called adhesive forces. Cohesive forces between molecules cause the surface of a liquid to contract to the smallest possible surface area. This general effect is called surface tension. Capillary action is the tendency of a fluid to be raised or suppressed in a narrow tube, or capillary tube which is due to relative strengths of cohesive and adhesive forces.
  • 11.9: Pressures in the Body
    Measuring blood pressure is among the most common of all medical examinations. The pressures in various parts of the body can be measured and often provide valuable medical indicators. The shape of the eye is maintained by fluid pressure, called intraocular pressure. When the circulation of fluid in the eye is blocked, it can lead to a buildup in pressure, a condition called glaucoma. Some of the other pressures in the body are spinal and skull pressures, bladder pressure, pressures in the skele
  • 11.E: Fluid Statics (Exercises)

Thumbnail: Surface tension preventing a paper clip from submerging. Image used with permission (CC-SA-BY- 3.0; Alvesgaspar).


  • Paul Peter Urone (Professor Emeritus at California State University, Sacramento) and Roger Hinrichs (State University of New York, College at Oswego) with Contributing Authors: Kim Dirks (University of Auckland) and Manjula Sharma (University of Sydney). This work is licensed by OpenStax University Physics under a Creative Commons Attribution License (by 4.0).