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The Navier–Stokes equations (/ / nav-YAY STOHKS) are partial differential equations which describe the motion of viscous fluid substances. They were named after French engineer and physicist Claude-Louis Navier and the Irish physicist and mathematician George Gabriel Stokes. They were developed over several decades of progressively building the theories, from 1822 (Navier) to 1842–1850 (Stokes).
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The Navier–Stokes equations mathematically express momentum balance and conservation of mass for Newtonian fluids. They are sometimes accompanied by an equation of state relating pressure, temperature and density. They arise from applying Isaac Newton's second law to fluid motion, together with the assumption that the stress in the fluid is the sum of a diffusing viscous term (proportional to the gradient of velocity) and a pressure term—hence describing viscous flow. The difference between them and the closely related Euler equations is that Navier–Stokes equations take viscosity into account while the Euler equations model only inviscid flow. As a result, the Navier–Stokes are a parabolic equation and therefore have better analytic properties, at the expense of having less mathematical structure (e.g. they are never completely integrable).
The Navier–Stokes equations are useful because they describe the physics of many phenomena of scientific and engineering interest. They may be used to model the weather, ocean currents, water flow in a pipe and air flow around a wing. The Navier–Stokes equations, in their full and simplified forms, help with the design of aircraft and cars, the study of blood flow, the design of power stations, the analysis of pollution, and many other problems. Coupled with Maxwell's equations, they can be used to model and study magnetohydrodynamics.
The Navier–Stokes equations are also of great interest in a purely mathematical sense. Despite their wide range of practical uses, it has not yet been proven whether smooth solutions always exist in three dimensions—i.e., whether they are infinitely differentiable (or even just bounded) at all points in the domain. This is called the Navier–Stokes existence and smoothness problem. The Clay Mathematics Institute has called this one of the seven most important open problems in mathematics and has offered a US$1 million prize for a solution or a counterexample.
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