In differential calculus, the Reynolds transport theorem (also known as the Leibniz–Reynolds transport theorem), or simply the Reynolds theorem, named after Osborne Reynolds (1842–1912), is a three-dimensional generalization of the Leibniz integral rule. It is used to recast time derivatives of integrated quantities and is useful in formulating the basic equations of continuum mechanics.

Consider integrating f = f(x,t) over the time-dependent region Ω(t) that has boundary ∂Ω(t), then taking the derivative with respect to time:

If we wish to move the derivative into the integral, there are two issues: the time dependence of f, and the introduction of and removal of space from Ω due to its dynamic boundary. Reynolds transport theorem provides the necessary framework.

General form

Reynolds transport theorem can be expressed as follows:[1][2][3]

in which n(x,t) is the outward-pointing unit normal vector, x is a point in the region and t is the variable of integration, dV and dA are volume and surface elements at x, and vb(x,t) is the velocity of the area element (not the flow velocity). The function f may be tensor-, vector- or scalar-valued.[4] Note that the integral on the left hand side is a function solely of time, and so the total derivative has been used.

Form for a material element

In continuum mechanics, this theorem is often used for material elements. These are parcels of fluids or solids which no material enters or leaves. If Ω(t) is a material element then there is a velocity function v = v(x,t), and the boundary elements obey

This condition may be substituted to obtain:[5]

Proof for a material element

Let Ω0 be reference configuration of the region Ω(t). Let the motion and the deformation gradient be given by

Let J(X,t) = det F(X,t). Define

Then the integrals in the current and the reference configurations are related by

That this derivation is for a material element is implicit in the time constancy of the reference configuration: it is constant in material coordinates. The time derivative of an integral over a volume is defined as

Converting into integrals over the reference configuration, we get

Since Ω0 is independent of time, we have

The time derivative of J is given by:[6]


where is the material time derivative of f. The material derivative is given by



Using the identity

we then have

Using the divergence theorem and the identity (ab) · n = (b · n)a, we have


A special case

If we take Ω to be constant with respect to time, then vb = 0 and the identity reduces to

as expected. (This simplification is not possible if the flow velocity is incorrectly used in place of the velocity of an area element.)

Interpretation and reduction to one dimension

The theorem is the higher-dimensional extension of differentiation under the integral sign and reduces to that expression in some cases. Suppose f is independent of y and z, and that Ω(t) is a unit square in the yz-plane and has x limits a(t) and b(t). Then Reynolds transport theorem reduces to

which, up to swapping x and t, is the standard expression for differentiation under the integral sign.

See also


  1. ^ Leal, L. G. (2007). Advanced transport phenomena: fluid mechanics and convective transport processes. Cambridge University Press. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-521-84910-4.
  2. ^ Reynolds, O. (1903). Papers on Mechanical and Physical Subjects. Vol. 3, The Sub-Mechanics of the Universe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 12–13.
  3. ^ Marsden, J. E.; Tromba, A. (2003). Vector Calculus (5th ed.). New York: W. H. Freeman. ISBN 978-0-7167-4992-9.
  4. ^ Yamaguchi, H. (2008). Engineering Fluid Mechanics. Dordrecht: Springer. p. 23. ISBN 978-1-4020-6741-9.
  5. ^ Belytschko, T.; Liu, W. K.; Moran, B. (2000). Nonlinear Finite Elements for Continua and Structures. New York: John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 0-471-98773-5.
  6. ^ Gurtin, M. E. (1981). An Introduction to Continuum Mechanics. New York: Academic Press. p. 77. ISBN 0-12-309750-9.