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Seek and Geek 4: Umbrella

During this storm, as I walked to campus in the rain, I realized I might need to buy an umbrella.
Before buying an umbrella, I should look into what causes the umbrella to invert.

First, if you’re traveling with the umbrella parallel to the ground (see Figure 1 top) - Bernoulli’s
principle is at work. The velocity of the air flow underneath the umbrella is slower than the
flow on the top of the umbrella. Based on Bernoulli’s principle, the pressure at the top is lower
than the pressure at the bottom – thus causing lift. This results in an upwards force (𝐹 = Δ𝑃 ∗
𝐴) that results in the umbrella inverting. Applying Bernoulli’s equation and assuming the wind
is blowing at 17 m/s (which it is, according to the weather, right now). The 𝐹 = 0.5𝜌𝑣 2 𝐴 = ~140
N. Now, different umbrellas have different strengths, but from the umbrellas I saw walking
outside, this was sufficient to invert most of them.
If you’re traveling with the umbrella at an angle (see Figure 1 bottom), conservation of moment
is required as the umbrella changes the direction of the air from going normal to the umbrella
to another direction. The force exerted by the wind on an umbrella can be approximated as
𝐹 ~ 𝐴𝜌𝑣 2 where A is the area of the umbrella, 𝜌 is the density of air, and v is the velocity of air.
Let’s assume I’m using an umbrella that’s 50 cm in diameter and the wind is blowing at a 17
m/s. This results in a force of~280 𝑁. A typical umbrella has 8 spokes, and assuming the force is
evenly divided among the spokes ( this isn’t exactly precise since portions of some of the spokes
will be blocked by the user’s body), the force per spoke is ~35 N. This force overcomes the
strength of the joint connecting two subspokes resulting in the umbrella inverting.
Looking at this simplified analysis, there’s less force to invert the umbrella when it’s held
parallel to the ground. Not having used an umbrella in the last ~ten years, I can’t tell from
experience, but this makes physical sense.
Another consideration is the deflection of the umbrella during heavy rain.
Assuming droplets are between 5 and 0.5 mm (geometric mean: 2.5 cm) and
travel at 10 m/s and 2 m/s, respectively (geometric mean: 6.3 m/s)[
http://wxguys.ssec.wisc.edu/2013/09/10/how-fast-do-raindrops-fall/]. Assuming
a constant force along the length of the umbrella is constant, the deflection is
𝐹𝐿3 Δ𝑝 𝑚𝑣
𝛿 = 8𝐸𝐼 where the 𝐹 = = = 0.41 𝑁 – assuming Δ𝑡 = 1𝑠. The diameter of
Δ𝑡 Δ𝑡
Figure 1 (top)
holding the the spokes is ~ 1/8” and the length is ~57 cm. Under these conditions, the
comically large deflection at the end of spokes will be 9.5 mm. This seems high, but it is a long
umbrella parallel
to the ground.
cantilevered beam.

An umbrella has eight linkages, the degrees of freedom are (3*(8-1)-2*8)= 1. To open the
umbrella, an upward force is applied to the main shaft and which results in a force to the
prismatic pair – which results in the prismatic pair moving upwards. The main shaft is, assuming
it is not broken, stopped by a catch. However, the prismatic pair keeps moving (momentum) –
resulting in the umbrella opening outwards after extending upwards.