Using a numerical model, we analyse the effects of shape on both the orientation and transport of anisotropic particles in wavy flows. The particles are idealized as prolate and oblate spheroids, and we consider the regime of small Stokes and particle Reynolds numbers. We find that the particles preferentially align into the shear plane with a mean orientation that is solely a function of their aspect ratio. This alignment, however, differs from the Jeffery orbits that occur in the residual shear flow (that is, the Stokes drift velocity field) in the absence of waves. Since the drag on an anisotropic particle depends on its alignment with the flow, this preferred orientation determines the effective drag on the particles, which in turn impacts their net downstream transport. We also find that the rate of alignment of the particles is not constant and depends strongly on their initial orientation; thus, variations in initial particle orientation result in dispersion of anisotropic-particle plumes. We show that this dispersion is a function of the particle’s eccentricity and the ratio of the settling and wave time scales. Due to this preferential alignment, we find that a plume of anisotropic particles in waves is on average transported farther but dispersed less than it would be if the particles were randomly oriented. Our results demonstrate that accurate prediction of the transport of anisotropic particles in wavy environments, such as microplastic particles in the ocean, requires the consideration of these preferential alignment effects.
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