Complex structures of fluids


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Title Complex structures of fluids
Period 2000 - unknown
Status Completed
Research number OND1293740
Data Supplier Website J.M. Burgercentrum


Research in this Theme deals with complex structures of flow, formed in the presence of particles, drops, or bubbles, i.e., two- or even multi-phase flow. Two-phase flow is of paramount importance in contemporary science and technology.
One can readily cite a multitude of examples: the production and transport of oil (where bubbles are purposely injected to help lift thick heavy oil to the surface, or arise due to the release of dissolved gases), energy generation (where boiling is the key process in producing the steam to drive turbines), the chemical industry (where gas-liquid reactors rely on bubbles to increase the contact area between the phases), the oceans (where breaking-wave generated bubbles are important sinks for atmospheric CO2), sedimentation (where sinking sand particles determine the structure oF our coasts), food-industry, and many others.
The challenge in single-phase flow is to understand the complicated dynamics which is generated by the Navier-Stokes equation. In two-phase flow, even the underlying dynamical equations are often not known. E.g., it is not understood why bubbles repel each other when they are close to each other. But even when the microscopic interactions are known, it is often not clear how the macroscopic structure evolves from this microscopic interaction and the response to external forces. In many cases instabilities are involved in the macroscopic structure formation process. Very complex self-organising patterns can evolve out of these instabilities. An important example is cluster formation in sedimentating particles and coherent structures in bubble columns and fluidised beds.
Related topics are flow-controlled nucleation and droplet growth processes in high-pressure natural gas, which have important technical applications in the natural gas industry. Different JMBC groups are involved in the design of new types of condensate separators and in the numerical description of swirling supersonic two-phase flows, while a dedicated facility has been developed in order to investigate these condensation processes in a well-defined way experimentally.
How to theoretically describe such a complex system? Two types of approaches have been described in literature: In the first type of approach, the particles/bubbles/drops are treated essentially as points, while no attempt is made to simulate their detailed response to the liquid dynamics. The advantage of this approach is that many particles/bubbles/drops can be treated, but the price to be paid is a lot of ad-hoc modelling. Fluid dynamical simulations in which the particles/bubbles/drops are modelled through averaged equations also belong to this first type of approach. In the second type of approach the detailed interactions of the particles/bubbles/drops with the flow is simulated, paying the price that - at present - the surrounding flow can not really be turbulent and that only "a few" objects can be treated, in particular, when the interfaces are allowed to deform, i.e., for free boundary problems (drops and bubbles).
One of the main objectives for the research in two-phase flow must be to bridge the gap between these two types of approaches and to carry out a detailed investigation of the interaction between one or a few particles/bubbles/drops and a nontrivial flow field. Another objective must be to better understand the macroscopic structure formation process out of the microscopic interactions, and thus the instabilities in two-phase flow. It is evident that these objectives can only be achieved through a joint experimental, theoretical, and numerical approach.
On the experimental side, the challenge has always been to monitor and document as much information on the dynamics of the flow field as possible. Through the huge advances in both digital imaging techniques and information technology (see Research Theme 3), the field is now flourishing, and the research on two-phase flow will strongly benefit from this. The same is to be expected from the advances with numerical techniques (see Research Theme 4), as brute force numerics will not be sufficient to address the problem of structure formation in two-phase flow. New algorithms and techniques are required and moving toward parallel computing will be essential.

Related organisations

Related people

Project leader G. Ooms

Related research (lower level)


D12700 Gases, fluid dynamics, plasma physics
D14210 Technical mechanics

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