Pipe flow has been a challenge that gave rise to investigations on turbulence—long before turbulence was discerned as a research problem in its own right. The discharge of water from elevated reservoirs through long conduits such as for the fountains at Versailles suggested investigations about the resistance in relation to the different diameters and lengths of the pipes as well as the speed of flow. Despite numerous measurements of hydraulic engineers, the data could not be reproduced by a commonly accepted formula, not to mention a theoretical derivation. The resistance of air flow in long pipes for the supply of blast furnaces or mine air appeared even more inaccessible to rational elaboration. In the nineteenth century, it became gradually clear that there were two modes of pipe flow, laminar and turbulent. While the former could be accommodated under the roof of hydrodynamic theory, the latter proved elusive. When the wealth of turbulent pipe flow data in smooth tubes was displayed as a function of the Reynolds number, the empirically observed friction factor served as a guide for the search of a fundamental law about turbulent skin friction. By 1930, a logarithmic “wall law” seemed to resolve this quest. Yet pipe flow has not been exhausted as a research subject. It still ranks high on the agenda of turbulence research—both the transition from laminar to turbulent flow and fully developed turbulence at very large Reynolds numbers.
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DOI 10.1007/s00407-020-00263-y
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