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Dynamic simulations of the inhomogeneous sedimentation of rigid fibres

  • JASON E. BUTLER (a1) (a2) and ERIC S. G. SHAQFEH (a1)


We have simulated the dynamics of suspensions of fibres sedimenting in the limit of zero Reynolds number. In these simulations, the dominant inter-particle force arises from hydrodynamic interactions between the rigid, non-Brownian fibres. The simulation algorithm uses slender-body theory to model the linear and rotational velocities of each fibre. To include far-field interactions between the fibres, the line distribution of force on each fibre is approximated by making a Legendre polynomial expansion of the disturbance velocity on the fibre, where only the first two terms of the expansion are retained in the calculation. Thus, the resulting linear force distribution can be specified completely by a centre-of-mass force, a couple, and a stresslet. Short-range interactions between particles are included using a lubrication approximation, and an infinite suspension is simulated by using periodic boundary conditions. Our numerical results confirm that the sedimentation of these non-spherical, orientable particles differs qualitatively from the sedimentation of spherical particles. The simulations demonstrate that an initially homogeneous, settling suspension develops clusters, or streamers, which are particle rich surrounded by clarified fluid. The instability which causes the heterogeneous structure arises solely from hydrodynamic interactions which couple the particle orientation and the sedimentation rate in particle clusters. Depending upon the concentration and aspect ratio, the formation of clusters of particles can enhance the sedimentation rate of the suspension to a value in excess of the maximum settling speed of an isolated particle. The suspension of fibres tends to orient with gravity during the sedimentation process. The average velocities and orientations, as well as their distributions, compare favourably with previous experimental measurements.


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