What Is Fluid Friction?

By Staff WriterLast Updated Mar 28, 2020 11:46:50 PM ET

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.


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.