Reynolds transport theorem
The Reynolds transport theorem (also known as the Leibniz–Reynolds transport theorem), or in short Reynolds' theorem, is a three-dimensional generalization of the Leibniz integral rule which is also known as differentiation under the integral sign. The theorem is named after Osborne Reynolds (1842–1912). It is used to recast derivatives of integrated quantities and is useful in formulating the basic equations of continuum mechanics.
Consider integrating over the time-dependent region that has boundary , then taking the derivative with respect to time:
If we wish to move the derivative within the integral, there are two issues: the time dependence of , and the introduction of and removal of space from due to its dynamic boundary. Reynolds' transport theorem provides the necessary framework.
in which is the outward-pointing unit-normal, is a point in the region and is the variable of integration, and are volume and surface elements at , and is the velocity of the area element – so not necessarily the flow velocity. The function may be tensor, vector or scalar valued. 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, which are parcels of fluids or solids which no material enters or leaves. If is a material element then there is a velocity function and the boundary elements obey
This condition may be substituted to obtain 
Proof for a material element
Let be reference configuration of the region . Let the motion and the deformation gradient be given by
Let . Then, 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 is independent of time, we have
Now, the time derivative of is given by 
where is the material time derivative of . Now, the material derivative is given by
Using the identity
we then have
Using the divergence theorem and the identity , we have
This theorem is widely quoted, incorrectly, as being the form specific to material volumes. See the planetmath external link below for an example. Clearly, if the material volume form is applied to regions other than material volumes, errors will ensue.
A special case
If we take to be constant with respect to time, then and the identity reduces to
as expected. This simplification is not possible if an incorrect form of the Reynolds transport theorem is used.
Interpretation and reduction to one dimension
The theorem is the higher-dimensional extension of Differentiation under the integral sign and should reduce to that expression in some cases. Suppose is independent of & , and that is a unit square in the plane and has limits and . Then Reynolds transport theorem reduces to
which is the expression given on Differentiation under the integral sign, except that there the variables x and t have been swapped.
- L. G. Leal, 2007, p. 23.
- O. Reynolds, 1903, Vol. 3, p. 12–13
- J.E. Marsden and A. Tromba, 5th ed. 2003
- Only for a material element there is
- H. Yamaguchi, Engineering Fluid Mechanics, Springer c2008 p23
- T. Belytschko, W. K. Liu, and B. Moran, 2000, Nonlinear Finite Elements for Continua and Structures, John Wiley and Sons, Ltd., New York.
- Gurtin M. E., 1981, An Introduction to Continuum Mechanics. Academic Press, New York, p. 77.
L. G. Leal, 2007, Advanced transport phenomena: fluid mechanics and convective transport processes, Cambridge University Press, p. 912.
O. Reynolds, 1903, Papers on Mechanical and Physical Subjects, Vol. 3, The Sub-Mechanics of the Universe, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
- Osborne Reynolds, Collected Papers on Mechanical and Physical Subjects, in three volumes, published circa 1903, now fully and freely available in digital format:Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3,