Electrohydrodynamics (EHD), also known as electro-fluid-dynamics (EFD) or electrokinetics, is the study of the dynamics of electrically charged fluids. It is the study of the motions of ionised particles or molecules and their interactions with electric fields and the surrounding fluid. The term may be considered to be synonymous with the rather elaborate electrostrictive hydrodynamics. EHD covers the following types of particle and fluid transport mechanisms: electrophoresis, electrokinesis, dielectrophoresis, electro-osmosis, and electrorotation. In general, the phenomena relate to the direct conversion of electrical energy into kinetic energy, and vice versa.

In the first instance, shaped electrostatic fields create hydrostatic pressure (or motion) in dielectric media. When such media are fluids, a flow is produced. If the dielectric is a vacuum or a solid, no flow is produced. Such flow can be directed against the electrodes, generally to move the electrodes. In such case, the moving structure acts as an electric motor. Practical fields of interest of EHD are the common air ioniser, electrohydrodynamic thrusters and EHD cooling systems.

In the second instance, the converse takes place. A powered flow of medium within a shaped electrostatic field adds energy to the system which is picked up as a potential difference by electrodes. In such case, the structure acts as an electrical generator.

Electrokinesis is the particle or fluid transport produced by an electric field acting on a fluid having a net mobile charge. (See -kinesis for explanation and further uses of the kinesis suffix.) Electrokinesis was first observed by Reuss during 1808, in the electrophoresis of clay particles The effect was also noticed and publicized in the 1920s by Thomas Townsend Brown which he called the Biefeld–Brown effect, although he seems to have miss-identified it as an electric field acting on gravity. The flow rate in such a mechanism is linear in the electric field. Electrokinesis is of considerable practical importance in microfluidics, because it offers a way to manipulate and convey fluids in microsystems using only electric fields, with no moving parts.

The force acting on the fluid, is given by the equation shown here.

Related formulas


Fresulting force acting on the fluid (N)
Icurrent (A)
ddistance between electrodes (m)
kion mobility coefficient of the dielectric fluid (meter2/volt*sec)