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Segregation of particles in incompressible random flows: singularities, intermittency and random uncorrelated motion


The results presented here are part of a long-term study in which we analyse the segregation of inertial particles in turbulent flows using the so called full Lagrangian method (FLM) to evaluate the ‘compressibility’ of the particle phase along a particle trajectory. In the present work, particles are advected by Stokes drag in a random flow field consisting of counter-rotating vortices and in a flow field composed of 200 random Fourier modes. Both flows are incompressible and, like turbulence, have structure and a distribution of scales with finite lifetime. The compressibility is obtained by first calculating the deformation tensor Jij associated with an infinitesimally small volume of particles following the trajectory of an individual particle. The fraction of the initial volume occupied by the particles centred around a position x at time t is denoted by |J|, where J ≡ det(Jij) and Jij ≡ ∂xi(x0, t)/∂x0,j, x0 denoting the initial position of the particle. The quantity d〈ln|J|〉/dt is shown to be equal to the particle averaged compressibility of the particle velocity field 〈∇ · v〉, which gives a measure of the rate-of-change of the total volume occupied by the particle phase as a continuum. In both flow fields the compressibility of the particle velocity field is shown to decrease continuously if the Stokes number St (the dimensionless particle relaxation time) is below a threshold value Stcr, indicating that the segregation of particles continues indefinitely. We show analytically and numerically that the long-time limit of 〈∇ · v〉 for sufficiently small values of St is proportional to St2 in the flow field composed of random Fourier modes, and to St in the flow field consisting of counter-rotating vortices. If St > Stcr, however, the particles are ‘mixed’. The level of mixing can be quantified by the degree of random uncorrelated motion (RUM) of particles which is a measure of the decorrelation of the velocities of two nearby particles. RUM is zero for fluid particles and increases rapidly with the Stokes number if St > Stcr, approaching unity for St ≫ 1. The spatial averages of the higher-order moments of the particle number density are shown to diverge with time indicating that the spatial distribution of particles may be very intermittent, being associated with non-zero values of RUM and the occurrence of singularities in the particle velocity field. Our results are consistent with previous observations of the radial distribution function in Chun et al. (J. Fluid Mech., vol. 536, 2005, p. 219).

Corresponding author
Present address: Royal Dutch Shell plc, Shell Technology Centre Amsterdam, Grasweg 31, 1031 HW Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Email address for correspondence:
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Journal of Fluid Mechanics
  • ISSN: 0022-1120
  • EISSN: 1469-7645
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-fluid-mechanics
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