Inertial effects in sedimenting suspensions of solid spheres in a liquid

Tariq Shajahan, Wim Paul Breugem*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Particle-resolved Direct Numerical Simulations have been performed on the gravitational settling of mono-disperse solid spheres in a viscous fluid and triply periodic domain. In a comprehensive study, the bulk solid volume concentration was varied from ϕ=0.5 to 30%. To study the effect of inertia, three different Galileo numbers were considered in the inertial regime, Ga=144, 178 and 210, for which a single settling sphere exhibits distinctly different wake and path characteristics. The particle/fluid mass density ratio was fixed at 1.5. We find that for ϕ=2−30% the suspension microstructure and dynamics depend predominantly on the bulk concentration. In qualitative agreement with previous studies in literature, three different sedimentation regimes can be distinguished: (1) the dilute concentration regime for ϕ≲2% with preferential settling of particles in vertical trains, (2) the moderate concentration regime for 2%≲ϕ≲10% with preferential settling of particles in horizontal pairs with an interparticle distance of ∼ 1.5 particle diameters, and (3) the dense concentration regime for ϕ≳10% with a nearly random (“hard-sphere”) distribution of the particles in space. The clustering of particles is dictated by, respectively, trapping of particles in the wake of other particles, a drafting–kissing–tumbling (DKT) instability by which two vertically aligned particles quickly reorient themselves into a horizontally aligned particle pair, and short-range multiparticle interactions through viscous lubrication and to a lesser extent collisions between particles. In all cases, hindered settling at a reduced speed is observed as compared to a single settling sphere. The well-known Richardson–Zaki relation for the mean sedimentation velocity appears valid only for the dense concentration regime. We provide ample evidence that in the dense regime the characteristic velocity and time scales of particle motion are proportional to gDp and Dp/g, respectively, with g the gravitational acceleration and Dp the particle diameter. We also observe an ω−3 scaling of the particle velocity spectra for ωDp/g≳0.4 and we propose a model to explain this scaling behavior, based on the inertial response of the particles to small-scale flow perturbations. Kinematic waves, i.e., vertically propagating plane waves in the local concentration field, are observed in all cases, though unrelated particle motions are responsible for significant loss of the spatio-temporal coherence of the waves. The wave speed was determined from repeated space–time autocorrelations of the local concentration field and appears in reasonable agreement with Kynch sedimentation theory using the Richardson–Zaki relation. The passage of kinematic waves causes perturbations in the particle velocity at a frequency that matches well with peak frequencies in the particle velocity spectra for concentrations up to ϕ≈10%. The time-lagged cross-correlation of the vertical and horizontal particle velocity suggests that kinematic waves may trigger DKT instabilities, while conversely DKT instabilities may be responsible for the onset of kinematic waves. Finally, we suggest that obstruction and perturbation of the particle wake by neighboring particles could offer an explanation for the small influence of the Galileo number on the suspension behavior for ϕ=2−30%.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104498
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Multiphase Flow
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Drafting–kissing–tumbling
  • Kinematic waves
  • Particle interactions
  • Sedimentation
  • Wake trapping


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