Prandtl–Glauert transformation

The Prandtl–Glauert transformation is a mathematical technique which allows solving certain compressible flow problems by incompressible-flow calculation methods. It also allows applying incompressible-flow data to compressible-flow cases.

Mathematical formulationEdit

Plot of the inverse Prandtl–Glauert factor   as a function of freestream Mach number. Notice the infinite limit at Mach 1.

Inviscid compressible flow over slender bodies is governed by linearized compressible small-disturbance potential equation:[1]


together with the small-disturbance flow-tangency boundary condition.


  is the freestream Mach number, and   are the surface-normal vector components. The unknown variable is the perturbation potential  , and the total velocity is given by its gradient plus the freestream velocity   which is assumed here to be along  .


The above formulation is valid only if the small-disturbance approximation applies,[2]


and in addition that there is no transonic flow, approximately stated by the requirement that the local Mach number not exceed unity.


The Prandtl–Glauert (PG) transformation uses the Prandtl–Glauert factor  . It consists of scaling down all y and z dimensions and angle of attack by the factor of   the potential by   and the x component of the normal vectors by  :


This   geometry will then have normal vectors whose x components are reduced by   from the original ones:


The small-disturbance potential equation then transforms to the Laplace equation,


and the flow-tangency boundary condition retains the same form.


This is the incompressible potential-flow problem about the transformed   geometry. It can be solved by incompressible methods, such as thin airfoil theory, vortex lattice methods, panel methods, etc. The result is the transformed perturbation potential   or its gradient components   in the transformed space. The physical linearized pressure coefficient is then obtained by the inverse transformation


which is known as Göthert's rule[3]


For two-dimensional flow, the net result is that   and also the lift and moment coefficients   are increased by the factor  :


where   are the incompressible-flow values for the original (unscaled)   geometry. This 2D-only result is known as the Prandtl Rule.[4]

For three-dimensional flows, these simple   scalings do NOT apply. Instead, it is necessary to work with the scaled   geometry as given above, and use the Göthert's Rule to compute the   and subsequently the forces and moments. No simple results are possible, except in special cases. For example, using Lifting-Line Theory for a flat elliptical wing, the lift coefficient is


where AR is the wing's aspect ratio. Note that in the 2D case where AR → ∞ this reduces to the 2D case, since in incompressible 2D flow for a flat airfoil we have   as given by Thin airfoil theory.


The PG transformation works well for all freestream Mach numbers up to 0.7 or so, or once transonic flow starts to appear.[2]


Ludwig Prandtl had been teaching this transformation in his lectures for a while, however the first publication was in 1928 by Hermann Glauert.[5] The introduction of this relation allowed the design of aircraft which were able to operate in higher subsonic speed areas.[6] Originally all these results were developed for 2D flow. Göthert eventually realized in 1946 that the geometric distortion induced by the PG transformation renders the simple 2D Prandtl Rule invalid for 3D, and properly stated the full 3D problem as described above.

The PG transformation was extended by Jakob Ackeret to supersonic-freestream flows. Like for the subsonic case, the supersonic case is valid only if there are no transonic effect, which requires that the body be slender and the freestream Mach is sufficiently far above unity.


Near the sonic speed   the PG transformation features a singularity. The singularity is also called the Prandtl–Glauert singularity, and the flow resistance is calculated to approach infinity. In reality, aerodynamic and thermodynamic perturbations get amplified strongly near the sonic speed, but a singularity does not occur. An explanation for this is that the linearized small-disturbance potential equation above is not valid, since it assumes that there are only small variations in Mach number within the flow and absence of compression shocks and thus is missing certain nonlinear terms. However, these become relevant as soon as any part of the flow field accelerates above the speed of sound, and become essential near   The more correct nonlinear equation does not exhibit the singularity.

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Kuethe & Chow 1976, pp. 248-.
  2. ^ a b Shapiro 1953.
  3. ^ Göthert 1946.
  4. ^ Truckenbrodt 1996, pp. 178-9.
  5. ^ Glauert 1928, p. 113–119.
  6. ^ Meier 2005.


  • Göthert, B.H. (1940), Ebene und räumliche Strömung bei hohen Unterschallgeschwindigkeiten: Erweiterung der Prandtl'schen Regel [Plane and Three-Dimensional Flow at High Subsonic Speeds: Extension of the Prandtl Rule] (in German), Berlin: Zentrale fuer Wissenschaftliches BerichtswesenCS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Glauert, H. (1928). "The Effect of Compressibility on the Lift of an Aerofoil". Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 118 (779): 113–119. doi:10.1098/rspa.1928.0039. ISSN 1364-5021.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Kuethe, Arnold Martin; Chow, Chuen-Yen (1976). Foundations of aerodynamics: bases of aerodynamic design. Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-50953-0.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Meier, H.-U. (2005), "Die Entwicklung des Pfeilflügels, eine technische Herausforderung" [The evolution of the swept-wing, a technical challenge] (PDF), Ludwig Prandtl memorial lecture, GAMM 2005, March 28th - April 1st 2005 (in German), Universität LuxemburgCS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Shapiro, Ascher H. (1953). The dynamics and thermodynamics of compressible fluid flow. Vol. 1. Wiley.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Truckenbrodt, Erich (1996). Fluidmechanik [Fluid Mechanics] (in German). Vol. 2 (4th ed.). Springer Verlag.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)