Humid Versus Dry Air and Kite Lift
Date: Winter 2011-2012
Hello, in the local kite board forum we are discussing how flying in a 'high' evaporation environment and the correspondent air humidity coming from will affect the lift of the kite. There are two side of the discussion. Side A's rational is that density is hardly affected by humidity content and consequently so thus lift. The back-ground for this is the following:
A) water molecular weight is lower than dry air molecular
weight and consequently a mixture of both gases will have less
density (for a given volume, at same pressure and temperature).
B) Advogardo's Law - for any given gaseous mixture the
number of particles is constant within a specific volume, if pressure
and temperature being kept constant.
Side B is claiming that as water, by either the action of temperature
of pressure, moves from liquid to vapour then those molecules will
need to go somewhere. As those molecules will need to go somewhere
then the overall weight is higher and so is density.
My question is: When in an evaporation environment where those
water-vapour particles go in order to kept the Avogadro's Law? I
wonder if the atmospheric volume grows to compensate those
water-vapour particles being added to the system, resulting in higher
atmospheric weight (pressure) but with less density than the previous
"non evaporation" state? But to be fairy honest I am a bit lost in my
own rational at this point.
It is true that the pressure in the immediate vicinity of the water source will be higher than ambient, because water molecules are continuously being added. But this just means that the volume of air in that vicinity will be expanding, pushing out and up until at some height above the water source (inches, maybe?) its pressure is the same as that of the dry air around it. At that point, the humid air will have a lower density than the dry air, and it will continue to rise for that reason. The density difference will be small, however, because only around 1% of humid air (50% relative humidity at room temterature) is water.
The lower density will decrease the lift you would have gotten from dry air in the same state of motion, but the humid air will be rising, which will increase the lift. I cannot guess which effect would be larger, but I suspect condensation of water onto the kite surface (if it occurs) could easily swamp them both.
At a fixed temperature, the body is buoyed up by a force equal to
the mass of the volume of the amount of displaced fluid. So "in principle"
lighter air is less buoyant. However, this effect is minor because a kite
has very little volume to displace the fluid (air -- wet or dry). A far
more important influence is the wind speed and the angle that the kite makes
to the direction of the impinging air. Your "kite board" is confusing the
behavior of a "kite" and a "balloon". The dynamics of the two devices is
governed by different factors. No sarcasm intended, but I could noesist,
"Go fly a kite!".
Click here to return to the Engineering Archives
Update: June 2012