Combined three-dimensional flow field measurements and motion tracking of freely moving spheres in a turbulent boundary layer

R. Van Hout*, A. Hershkovitz, G. E. Elsinga, J. Westerweel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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A combination of time-resolved tomographic particle image velocimetry, refractive index matching technique and machine vision algorithms was used to measure the translational and rotational motion of freely moving, nearly neutrally buoyant spheres in a fully developed turbulent boundary layer (TBL). Located in the buffer and logarithmic layers, the hydrogel spheres (70 inner wall units in diameter) were refractive index matched with the water and tagged by 'spokes'. Besides translational motion, the spheres exhibited significant rotation. The spheres were surrounded by typical coherent structures observed in TBLs, among them hairpin packets and transverse and longitudinal vortices that induced ejections and sweeps. While the majority of instantaneous sphere Reynolds numbers did not exceed 100, and vortex shedding was not observed, the results showed that the spheres may affect the evolution of hairpin packets in TBLs due to their finite size. The instantaneous rotation-, wall- and shear-induced lift forces, as well as the drag forces, acting on the spheres were estimated using available correlations for the lift and drag coefficients. Results hinted at negative shear-induced lift due to flow separation at a smaller critical Reynolds number than incorporated in the correlations that do not include the effect of ambient turbulence. The results indicated further that the drag force aided by the rotation-induced lift force was instrumental in keeping one of the spheres aloft. For the wall-ward moving spheres, lift forces opposed sphere motion. As a result, the spheres approached the wall with velocities lower than their quiescent settling velocity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA12
Number of pages39
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • particle/fluid flow


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