 Rayleigh number

In fluid mechanics, the Rayleigh number for a fluid is a dimensionless number associated with buoyancy driven flow (also known as free convection or natural convection). When the Rayleigh number is below the critical value for that fluid, heat transfer is primarily in the form of conduction; when it exceeds the critical value, heat transfer is primarily in the form of convection.
The Rayleigh number is named after Lord Rayleigh and is defined as the product of the Grashof number, which describes the relationship between buoyancy and viscosity within a fluid, and the Prandtl number, which describes the relationship between momentum diffusivity and thermal diffusivity. Hence the Rayleigh number itself may also be viewed as the ratio of buoyancy and viscosity forces times the ratio of momentum and thermal diffusivities.
For free convection near a vertical wall, this number is
where
 x = Characteristic length (in this case, the distance from the leading edge)
 Ra_{x} = Rayleigh number at position x
 Gr_{x} = Grashof number at position x
 Pr = Prandtl number
 g = acceleration due to gravity
 T_{s} = Surface temperature (temperature of the wall)
 T_{∞} = Quiescent temperature (fluid temperature far from the surface of the object)
 ν = Kinematic viscosity
 α = Thermal diffusivity
 β = Thermal expansion coefficient
In the above, the fluid properties Pr, ν, α and β are evaluated at the film temperature, which is defined as
For most engineering purposes, the Rayleigh number is large, somewhere around 10^{6} and 10^{8}.
In geophysics the Rayleigh number is of fundamental importance: it indicates the presence and strength of convection within a fluid body such as the Earth's mantle. The mantle is a solid that behaves as a fluid over geological time scales. The Rayleigh number for the Earth's mantle, due to internal heating alone, Ra_{H} is given by
where H is the rate of radiogenic heat production, k is the thermal conductivity, and D is the depth of the mantle.^{[1]}
A Rayleigh number for bottom heating of the mantle from the core, Ra_{T} can also be defined:
^{[1]} Where ΔT_{sa} is the superadiabatic temperature difference between the reference mantle temperature and the Core–mantle boundary and c is the specific heat capacity, which is a function of both pressure and temperature.
High values for the Earth's mantle indicates that convection within the Earth is vigorous and timevarying, and that convection is responsible for almost all the heat transported from the deep interior to the surface.See also
Notes
 ^ ^{a} ^{b} Bunge, HansPeter; Richards, Mark A.; Baumgardner, John R. (1997). "A sensitivity study of threedimensional spherical mantle convection at 10^{8} Rayleigh number: Effects of depthdependent viscosity, heating mode, and endothermic phase change". Journal of Geophysical Research 102 (B6): 11991–12007. Bibcode 1997JGR...10211991B. doi:10.1029/96JB03806.
References
 Turcotte, D.; Schubert, G. (2002). Geodynamics (2nd ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521661862.
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Categories: Convection
 Dimensionless numbers
 Fluid mechanics
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