Transition to turbulence and drag reduction in particle-laden pipe flows
Most real-world flows are multiphase, yet we know little about them compared to their single-phase counterparts. Multiphase flows are more difficult to investigate as their dynamics occur in large parameter space and involve complex phenomena such as preferential concentration, turbulence modulation, non-Newtonian rheology, etc. Over the last few decades, experiments in particle-laden flows have taken a back seat in favour of ever-improving computational resources. However, computers are still not powerful enough to simulate a real-world fluid with millions of finite-size particles. Experiments are essential not only because they offer a reliable way to investigate real-world multiphase flows but also because they serve to validate numerical studies and steer the research in a relevant direction. In this work, we have experimentally investigated particle-laden flows in pipes, and in particular, examined the effect of particles on the laminar-turbulent transition and the drag scaling in turbulent flows.
For particle-laden pipe flows, an earlier study [Matas et al., 2003] reported how the sub-critical (i.e., hysteretic) transition that occurs via localised turbulent structures called puffs is affected by the addition of particles. In this study, in addition to this known transition, we found a super-critical transition to a globally fluctuating state with increasing particle concentration. At the same time, the Newtonian-type transition via puffs is delayed to larger Reynolds numbers. At an even higher concentration, only the globally fluctuating state is found. The dynamics of particle-laden flows are hence determined by two competing instabilities that give rise to three flow regimes: Newtonian-type turbulence at low, a particle-induced globally fluctuating state at high, and a coexistence state at intermediate concentrations.
The effect of particles on turbulent drag is ambiguous, with studies reporting drag reduction, no net change, and even drag increase. The ambiguity arises because, in addition to particle concentration, particle shape, size, and density also affect the net drag. Even similar particles might affect the flow dissimilarly in different Reynolds number and concentration ranges. In the present study, we explored a wide range of both Reynolds number and concentration, using spherical as well as cylindrical particles. We found that the spherical particles do not reduce drag while the cylindrical particles are drag-reducing within a specific Reynolds number interval. The interval strongly depends on the particle concentration and the relative size of the pipe and particles. Within this interval, the magnitude of drag reduction reaches a maximum. These drag reduction maxima appear to fall onto a distinct power-law curve irrespective of the pipe diameter and particle concentration, and this curve can be considered as the maximum drag reduction asymptote for a given fibre shape. Such an asymptote is well known for polymeric flows but had not been identified for particle-laden flows prior to this work.
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Institute of Science and Technology Austria
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