Various expressions have been proposed previously for the rise velocity of gas bubbles in homogeneous steady bubbly flows, generally a monotonically decreasing function of the bubble volume fraction. For suspensions of freely moving bubbles, some of these are of the form expected for ordered arrays of bubbles, and vice versa, as they do not reduce to the behaviour expected theoretically in the dilute limit. The microstructure of weakly inhomogeneous bubbly flows not being known generally, the effect of microstructure is an important consideration. We revisit this problem here for bubbly flows at small to moderate Reynolds number values for deformable bubbles, using direct numerical simulation and analysis. For ordered suspensions, the rise velocity is demonstrated not to be monotonically decreasing with volume fraction due to cooperative wake interactions. The fore-and-aft asymmetry of an isolated ellipsoidal bubble is reversed upon increasing the volume fraction, and the bubble aspect ratio approaches unity. Recent work on rising bubble pairs is used to explain most of these results; the present work therefore forms a platform of extending the former to suspensions of many bubbles. We adopt this new strategy also to support the existence of the oblique rise of ordered suspensions, the possibility of which is also demonstrated analytically. Finally, we demonstrate that most of the trends observed in ordered systems also appear in freely evolving suspensions. These similarities are supported by prior experimental measurements and attributed to the fact that free bubbles keep the same neighbours for extended periods of time.
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