Can terminal settling velocity and drag of natural particles in water ever be predicted accurately?

Onno Kramer, Peter J. de Moel, S.R. Kaveripuram Ramasamy, Eric T. Baars, Wim H. van Vught, Wim-Paul Breugem, Johan Padding, Jan Peter van der Hoek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Natural particles are frequently applied in drinking water treatment processes in fixed bed reactors, fluidised bed reactors, and sedimentation processes to clarify water and to concentrate solids. When particles settle, it has been found that, in terms of hydraulics, natural particles behave differently when compared to perfectly round spheres. To estimate the terminal settling velocity of single solid particles in a liquid system, a comprehensive collection of equations is available. For perfectly round spheres, the settling velocity can be calculated quite accurately. However, for naturally polydisperse non-spherical particles, experimentally measured settling velocities of individual particles show considerable spread from the calculated average values.

This work aims to analyse and explain the different causes of this spread. To this end, terminal settling experiments were conducted in a quiescent fluid with particles varying in density, size, and shape. For the settling experiments, opaque and transparent spherical polydisperse and monodisperse glass beads were selected. In this study, we also examined drinking-water-related particles, like calcite pellets and crushed calcite seeding material grains, which are both applied in drinking water softening. Polydisperse calcite pellets were sieved and separated to acquire more uniformly dispersed samples. In addition, a wide variety of grains with different densities, sizes, and shapes were investigated for their terminal settling velocity and behaviour. The derived drag coefficient was compared with well-known models such as the one of Brown and Lawler (2003).

A sensitivity analysis showed that the spread is caused, to a lesser extent, by variations in fluid properties, measurement errors, and wall effects. Natural variations in specific particle density, path trajectory instabilities, and distinctive multi-particle settling behaviour caused a slightly larger degree of the spread. In contrast, a greater spread is caused by variations in particle size, shape, and orientation.

In terms of robust process designs and adequate process optimisation for fluidisation and sedimentation of natural granules, it is therefore crucial to take into consideration the influence of the natural variations in the settling velocity when using predictive models of round spheres.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-71
JournalDrinking Water Engineering and Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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