The Prandtl number (Pr) or Prandtl group is a dimensionless number, named after the German physicist Ludwig Prandtl, defined as the ratio of momentum diffusivity to thermal diffusivity. The Prandtl number is given as:
Note that whereas the Reynolds number and Grashof number are subscripted with a scale variable, the Prandtl number contains no such length scale and is dependent only on the fluid and the fluid state. The Prandtl number is often found in property tables alongside other properties such as viscosity and thermal conductivity.
The Prandtl number is named after Ludwig Prandtl.
For most gases over a wide range of temperature and pressure, Pr is approximately constant. Therefore, it can be used to determine the thermal conductivity of gases at high temperatures, where it is difficult to measure experimentally due to the formation of convection currents.
Typical values for Pr are:
For air with a pressure of 1 bar, the Prandtl numbers in the temperature range between -100 °C and +500 °C can be calculated using the formula given below. The temperature is to be used in the unit degree Celsius. The deviations are a maximum of 0.1 % from the literature values.
The Prandtl numbers for water (1 bar) can be determined in the temperature range between 0 °C and 90 °C using the formula given below. The temperature is to be used in the unit degree Celsius. The deviations are a maximum of 1 % from the literature values.
Small values of the Prandtl number, Pr ≪ 1, means the thermal diffusivity dominates. Whereas with large values, Pr ≫ 1, the momentum diffusivity dominates the behavior. For example, the listed value for liquid mercury indicates that the heat conduction is more significant compared to convection, so thermal diffusivity is dominant. However, for engine oil, convection is very effective in transferring energy from an area in comparison to pure conduction, so momentum diffusivity is dominant.
The Prandtl numbers of gases are about 1, which indicates that both momentum and heat dissipate through the fluid at about the same rate. Heat diffuses very quickly in liquid metals (Pr ≪ 1) and very slowly in oils (Pr ≫ 1) relative to momentum. Consequently thermal boundary layer is much thicker for liquid metals and much thinner for oils relative to velocity boundary layer.
In heat transfer problems, the Prandtl number controls the relative thickness of the momentum and thermal boundary layers. When Pr is small, it means that the heat diffuses quickly compared to the velocity (momentum). This means that for liquid metals the thermal boundary layer is much thicker than the velocity boundary layer.
The ratio of the thermal to momentum boundary layer over a flat plate is well approximated by
where is the thermal boundary layer thickness and is the momentum boundary layer thickness.