The ratio of the shearing stress to the velocity gradient is a measure of the viscosity of the fluid and is called the coefficient of viscosity η, or η = Fx / Av. The cgs unit for measuring the coefficient of viscosity is the poise. Experiments have shown that the coefficient of viscosity of liquids decreases with increasing temperature, while the coefficient of viscosity of gases increases with increasing temperature. In liquids an increase in temperature is associated with the weakening of bonds between molecules; since these bonds contribute to viscosity, the coefficient is decreased. On the other hand, intermolecular forces in gases are not as important a factor in viscosity as collisions between the molecules, and an increase in temperature increases the number of collisions, thus increasing the coefficient of viscosity. A striking result of the kinetic theory of gases is that the viscosity of a gas is independent of the density of a gas. Viscosity is the principal factor resisting motion in laminar flow. However, when the velocity has increased to the point at which the flow becomes turbulent, pressure differences resulting from eddy currents rather than viscosity provide the major resistance to motion.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.