This requires an explanation. A solenoid can be a helical coil of wire with a certain inductance. In the case of fluid dynamics, the movement of a fluid is solenoidal when the fluid moves in a circle, or any kind of closed loop. Fluid movement around a loop cannot be due to a scalar potential.

If a fluid moves due to a scalar potential φ, then it moves from higher potential to lower potential:

- .

One property of solenoidal fluid flow, though, is that it has a non-zero curl:

- .

The curl operator can be used in two ways: (1) to measure the amount and direction of rotational (solenoidal) flow, or (2) to generate rotational flow. In the second case. In inequation (1), the curl is being used in the first way; to measure rotational flow. But solenoidal flow is also related to the curl in the second way, by means of a vector potential.

This means that for any fluid movement that is purely solenoidal (no lamellar movement), there is a vector potential **A** such that

- .

There is some evidence, though, that the curl of the curl of **A** might be somewhat similar to **A**. Imagine a fluid **v** moving in the *x-y* plane clockwise in a circle around the *z*-axis. Evidently the curl of **v** should be pointing downwards, in the negative *z* direction, near the origin. What about the curl of **v** just outside, at the edges of its circular movement? Curl does not just measure rotation: it can also measure differences in speed. Let traffic along a wide highway be thought of as a fluid, and let the velocities of cars be represented by a vector field. If the cars in the left lanes are moving faster than the cars in the right lanes, then the curl of the velocity field points downwards to the ground, even if the highway is straight and not turning. But if the situation were reversed, and the cars in the right lanes were to move faster than the cars on the left lanes, then the curl of their velocity field would point upwards towards the sky.

Back to the clockwise movement of **v**: suppose that at a farther distance from the origin, the velocity decays towards zero. Then the curls just outside of the solenoidal movement will point upwards in the +*z* direction even though inside the solenoidal movement, the curl points downwards in the -*z* direction. For example, in the positive *x* axis **v** points in the -*y* direction. But moving further up the *x* axis past the solenoidal movement, the magnitude of **v** weakens and no longer points so strongly in the -*y* direction. This implies a curl which points upwards.

It is as if the solenoidal movement were a gear, moving clockwise. Any other gear connected to this gear must move counterclockwise. As the solenoidal movement decays with distance, it is as if the central gear were connected to several smaller surrounding gears moving counterclockwise, each with a positive curl, but none of them with a curl as strong as the central curl inside the solenoidal movement.

Now imagine what kind of potential vector field **A** would be necessary, so that its curl would equal **v**. It would be shaped like a torus. At the outer edges of the torus, the potential points upwards (+*z*). At the top edge of the torus, the potential points inwards (towards the origin). At the inner edge of the torus, the potential points downwards. At the bottom edges of the torus, the potential points outwards. The potential field lines form circles, which are perpendicular to the solenoidal movement of **v**.

It is necessary to check to see that the curl of **A** yields **v**. Cut the torus in half by means of the *x-z* axis. Two circular potential field lines are now seen: one on the left side (-*x*) which is clockwise and one on the right side (+*x*) which is counterclockwise. The curl of the potential on the left side therefore points in the +*y* direction, and the curl of the potential on the right side points in the -*y* direction. If **v** moves clockwise in the *x-y* plane, then it should be expected to move in the -*y* direction on the right side and in the +*y* direction on the left side.

Back to the vector potential and the curl of **v**. The curl of **v** points downwards inside of the solenoidal movement, but so does the potential **A** in the inner side of the torus, which surrounds the solenoidal movement. The curl of **v** points upwards in the region where the solenoidal movement decays. But this is the same region as the outer side of the torus, where the potential **A** points upwards. Therefore it is possible to imagine that

Anyway, the point is that not only does solenoidal (or vortical) velocity have non-zero curl, but it can itself be the curl of a potential (and the potential might not be too different from the curl of the velocity). So, let us say that all solenoidal movement can be generated from a vector potential: there exists a potential **A** such that

- .

- .