What Is a Fluid?

What Is a Fluid?

A fluid, in contrast to a solid, is a substance that can flow. Fluids conform to the boundaries of any container in which we put them. They do so because a fluid cannot sustain a force that is tangential to its surface. (In the more formal language of ‘Section 13-6, a fluid is a substance that flows because it cannot withstand a shearing stress. It can, however, exert a force in the direction perpendicular to its surface.) Some materials, such as pitch, take a long time to conform to the boundaries of a container, but they do so eventually; thus, we classify them as fluids.  out may wonder why we lump liquids and gases together and call them fluids. After all (you may say), liquid water is as different from steam as it is from ice. Actually, it is not. Ice, like other crystalline solids, has its constituent atoms organized in a fairly rigid three-dimensional array called a crystalline lattice. In neither steam nor liquid water, however, is there any such orderly long-range arrangement.

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