Two rigid spheres of radii a and b are immersed in infinite fluid whose velocity at infinity is a linear function of position. No external force or couple acts on the spheres, and the effect of inertia forces on the motion of the fluid and the spheres is neglected. The purpose of the paper is to provide a systematic and explicit description of those aspects of the interaction between the two spheres that are relevant in a calculation of the mean stress in a suspension of spherical particles subjected to bulk deformation. The most relevant aspects are the relative velocity of the two sphere centres (V) and the force dipole strengths of the two spheres (S′ij, S″ij), as functions of the vector r separating the two centres.
It is shown that V, S′ij and S″ij depend linearly on the rate of strain at infinity and can be represented in terms of several scalar parameters which are functions of r/a and b/a alone. These scalar functions provide a framework for the expression of the many results previously obtained for particular linear ambient flows or for particular values of r/a or of b/a. Some new results are established for the asymptotic forms of the functions both for r/(a + b) [Gt ] 1 and for values of r − (a + b) small compared with a and b. A reasonably complete numerical description of the interaction of two rigid spheres of equal size is assembled, the main deficiency being accurate values of the scalar functions describing the force dipole strength of a sphere in the intermediate range of sphere separations.
In the case of steady simple shearing motion at infinity, some of the trajectories of one sphere centre relative to another are closed, a fact which has consequences for the rheological problem. These closed forms are described analytically, and also numerically in the case b/a = 1.