# Flow velocity

In continuum mechanics the macroscopic velocity, also flow velocity in fluid dynamics or drift velocity in electromagnetism, is a vector field used to mathematically describe the motion of a continuum. The length of the flow velocity vector is the flow speed and is a scalar.

## Definition

The flow velocity u of a fluid is a vector field which gives the velocity of an element of fluid at a position and time The flow speed q is the length of the flow velocity vector and is a scalar field.

## Uses

The flow velocity of a fluid effectively describes everything about the motion of a fluid. Many physical properties of a fluid can be expressed mathematically in terms of the flow velocity. Some common examples follow:

The flow of a fluid is said to be steady if does not vary with time. That is if ### Incompressible flow

If a fluid is incompressible the divergence of is zero: That is, if is a solenoidal vector field.

### Irrotational flow

A flow is irrotational if the curl of is zero: That is, if is an irrotational vector field.

A flow in a simply-connected domain which is irrotational can be described as a potential flow, through the use of a velocity potential with If the flow is both irrotational and incompressible, the Laplacian of the velocity potential must be zero: ### Vorticity

The vorticity, , of a flow can be defined in terms of its flow velocity by Thus in irrotational flow the vorticity is zero.

## The velocity potential

If an irrotational flow occupies a simply-connected fluid region then there exists a scalar field such that The scalar field is called the velocity potential for the flow. (See Irrotational vector field.)