Facebook Instagram Youtube Twitter

Relative Roughness of Pipe

The quantity used to measure the roughness of the pipe’s inner surface is called the relative roughness, and it is equal to the average height of surface irregularities (ε) divided by the pipe diameter (D).

relative roughness - equation

where both the average height surface irregularities and the pipe diameter are in millimeters.

If we know the relative roughness of the pipe’s inner surface, then we can obtain the value of the friction factor from the Moody Chart.

The Moody chart (also known as the Moody diagram) is a graph in the non-dimensional form that relates the Darcy friction factor, Reynolds number, and the relative roughness for fully developed flow in a circular pipe.

relative roughness - absolute roughness


Why is head loss very important?

As can be seen from the picture, the head loss is formed key characteristic of any hydraulic system. In systems in which some certain flowrate must be maintained (e.g.,, to provide sufficient cooling or heat transfer from a reactor core), the equilibrium of the head loss and the head added by a pump determine the flow rate through the system.

Q-H characteristic diagram of centrifugal pump and of pipeline
Q-H characteristic diagram of centrifugal pump and of pipeline
Example: Moody Chart
Determine the friction factor (fD) for fluid flow in a pipe of 700mm in diameter that has the Reynolds number of 50 000 000 and an absolute roughness of 0.035 mm.


The relative roughness is equal to ε = 0.035 / 700 = 5 x 10-5. Using the Moody Chart, a Reynolds number of 50 000 000 intersects the curve corresponding to a relative roughness of 5 x 10-5 at a friction factor of 0.011.

Moody chart, moody diagram
Example: Moody chart.
Source: Donebythesecondlaw at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4681366
darcy friction factor - relative roughnessIt must be noted, at very large Reynolds numbers, the friction factor is independent of the Reynolds number. This is because the thickness of the laminar sublayer (viscous sublayer) decreases with increasing Reynolds number. For very large Reynolds numbers, the thickness of the laminar sublayer is comparable to the surface roughness, and it directly influences the flow. The laminar sublayer becomes so thin that the surface roughness protrudes into the flow. The frictional losses, in this case, are produced in the main flow primarily by the protruding roughness elements, and the contribution of the laminar sublayer is negligible.
Reactor Physics and Thermal Hydraulics:
  1. J. R. Lamarsh, Introduction to Nuclear Reactor Theory, 2nd ed., Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA (1983).
  2. J. R. Lamarsh, A. J. Baratta, Introduction to Nuclear Engineering, 3d ed., Prentice-Hall, 2001, ISBN: 0-201-82498-1.
  3. W. M. Stacey, Nuclear Reactor Physics, John Wiley & Sons, 2001, ISBN: 0- 471-39127-1.
  4. Glasstone, Sesonske. Nuclear Reactor Engineering: Reactor Systems Engineering, Springer; 4th edition, 1994, ISBN: 978-0412985317
  5. Todreas Neil E., Kazimi Mujid S. Nuclear Systems Volume I: Thermal Hydraulic Fundamentals, Second Edition. CRC Press; 2 edition, 2012, ISBN: 978-0415802871
  6. Zohuri B., McDaniel P. Thermodynamics in Nuclear Power Plant Systems. Springer; 2015, ISBN: 978-3-319-13419-2
  7. Moran Michal J., Shapiro Howard N. Fundamentals of Engineering Thermodynamics, Fifth Edition, John Wiley & Sons, 2006, ISBN: 978-0-470-03037-0
  8. Kleinstreuer C. Modern Fluid Dynamics. Springer, 2010, ISBN 978-1-4020-8670-0.
  9. U.S. Department of Energy, THERMODYNAMICS, HEAT TRANSFER, AND FLUID FLOW. DOE Fundamentals Handbook, Volume 1, 2 and 3. June 1992.
  10. White Frank M., Fluid Mechanics, McGraw-Hill Education, 7th edition, February, 2010, ISBN: 978-0077422417

See above:

Major Loss