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Turbulence and viscous mixing using smoothed particle hydrodynamics

posted on 2017-02-08, 06:10 authored by Robinson, Martin Jeremy
This thesis describes the application of Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) to viscous and turbulent mixing. It is comprised of two main sections that study two important classes of mixing flows from each end of the Reynolds Number range. The first section describes an SPH study of very viscous mixing using a two-dimensional Twin Cam mixer and the development of numerical tools to study the chaotic mixing within this device. The second section studies the application of SPH to Direct Numerical Simulations (DNS) of two-dimensional turbulence in a square box with no-slip boundaries. The primary focus of this section is to evaluate how well SPH can reproduce the primary characteristics of 2D wall-bounded turbulence. These characteristics include those near the no-slip boundaries of the box (e.g. the boundary layer and vortex roll-up) as well as those in the central turbulent flow (e.g. the inverse energy and direct enstrophy cascades). Chapter 1 provides an introduction to the two types of mixing flows that are investigated in this thesis. The chapter covers the motivations behind this research and provides a summary of the relevent literature. Chapter 2 gives an overview of the SPH method and the particular formulation used in this thesis. Chapter 3 describes 2D SPH simulations of a Twin Cam mixer and compares the results against experimental data and results from two published Finite Element Method (FEM) simulations. A methodology for the analysis and quantification of the chaotic mixing is presented and applied to the Twin Cam mixer. The first half of this methodology is based on the use of Finite-Time Lyapunov Exponents (FTLE) to visualise the chaotic manifolds of the flow. The topology of the manifolds describe the stretching and folding actions of the mixing, and define regions in the flow that are substantially isolated (ie. slow to mix) from neighbouring regions. A method of calculating the spatial distribution of FTLE directly from the SPH particle data is presented, which represents a considerable reduction in computational cost compared to previously published methods. The second half of the analysis methodology is based on a quantitative measure of mixing. Given a length scale of interest, this measure calculates the local amount of mixing between two or more regions. The measure is used to show the differences in both the spatial variation and total amount of mixing between the important regions in the flow previously identified by the chaotic manifolds. The chapter finishes by comparing the time scales of mixing over different length scales in the Twin Cam mixer. Chapter 4 provides an overview of the current theoretical description of homogeneous and isotropic 3D and 2D turbulence. It also covers recent numerical and experimental results for DNS turbulence in periodic and wall-bounded domains. A literature review of SPH turbulence is given. The chapter ends by discussing the primary motivations behind this investigation of SPH DNS of two-dimensional wall-bounded turbulence. Chapter 5 presents the results of ensemble SPH simulations of decaying wall-bounded 2D turbulence at a Reynolds number (Re) of 1500. These are compared against published results from a pseudospectral code. The qualitative variables of the SPH turbulence evolution (e.g. kinetic energy decay, angular momentum and average vortex wavenumber) compare well with the pseudospectral results. However, the production of long-lived coherent vortices from the boundaries is not seen in the SPH simulations. Subsequent results show that the boundary layer and vortex roll-up are modelled well by the SPH method, but excess numerical dissipation prevents the vortex from surviving once it has detached from the boundary. Chapter 6 investigates SPH simulations of forced wall-bounded (Re = 1581) and periodic (Re = 2645) 2D turbulence. As for the decaying case, these results are compared against published pseudospectral simulations and physical experiments. The SPH simulations reproduce the direct enstrophy cascade well. The kinetic energy spectrum follows the expected k-3 scaling in the direct enstrophy range for wavelengths larger than 8 particle spacings. However, velocity fluctuations at wavelengths less than 8 particle spacings are responsible for a significant amount of numerical dissipation. This dissipation acts to weaken the inverse energy cascade and prevents the build-up of energy in the longest wavelength. Investigations into the statistics of particle pair dispersion show deviations in the expected scalings at wavelengths less than the forcing scale. These deviations are consistent with the small-scale velocity fluctuations acting as an additional forcing term and increasing the rate of mixing at small length scales. SPH parameter studies show that the turbulence is very sensitive to the SPH sound speed, with increasing sound speed resulting in a significant increase in numerical dissipation and a subsequent reduction in the strength of the inverse energy cascade. The maximum wavelength of the small-scale velocity fluctuations decreases slowly with increasing resolution. It is estimated that a minimum particle resolution of 3500x3500 is needed to reduce the minimum wavelength of the velocity fluctuations below the dissipation length scale of the turbulence (for Re = 1581). Chapter 7 compares the Cubic Spline and Wendland kernels and their effect on particle clumping in the forced 2D turbulence simulations. The Cubic Spline is found to generate significant clumping on a length scale equal to the location of the spline point (typically chosen to be the smoothing length h). In contrast, the Wendland kernel results in a very even distribution of particles, which dramatically reduces the numerical dissipation in the forced turbulence simulations and strengthens the inverse energy cascade. Particle clumping in SPH simulations is often attributed to the Tensile Instability. However, the criteria for this instability is unchanged between the Cubic Spline and Wendland kernels leading to the conclusion that the Tensile Instability is not the cause of the clumping seen in these simulations.


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Principal supervisor

Joseph Monaghan

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Science

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