The interaction of an isolated spherical particle with an isotropic turbulent flow is considered using direct numerical simulations (DNS). The particle Reynolds number is varied from about 50 to 600 and the particle diameter is varied from about 1.5 to 10 times the Kolmogorov scale. The Reynolds number based on the Taylor microscale of the free-stream turbulent field considered here is 164. The DNS technique employed here is the first of its kind to address particle–turbulence interaction and it resolves the smallest scales in the free-stream turbulent flow and the complex vortical structures in the particle wake. The primary objective of this paper is to present new results on the effect of the free-stream turbulence on the particle wake and vortex shedding, and the modulation of free-stream turbulence in the particle wake. The parameters of the present simulations are comparable to those of the experimental study by Wu & Faeth (1994$a$, $b$), and agreement between the present computational results and the experimental measurement is demonstrated.
The effect of free-stream turbulence on the mean and instantaneous wake structure is studied. The time-averaged mean wake in a turbulent ambient flow shows a lower velocity deficit and a flatter profile. However, in agreement with the experimental results of Wu & Faeth the mean wake in a turbulent flow behaves like a self-preserving laminar wake. At Reynolds numbers below about 210 the effect of free-stream turbulence is to introduce wake oscillations. For Reynolds numbers in the range 210 to 280, free-stream turbulence is observed to promote early onset of vortex shedding. The nature of the shed vortices is somewhat different from that in a uniform flow. Increasing the free-stream turbulence intensity suppresses the process of vortex shedding, and only marginally increases the wake oscillation. The modulation of free-stream turbulence in the wake is studied in terms of the distribution of kinetic energy and RMS velocity fluctuation. The free-stream energy lost in the wake is recovered faster in a turbulent ambient flow than in a uniform ambient flow. The energy of the velocity fluctuation is enhanced in the wake at low free-stream intensities, and is damped or marginally increased at higher intensities. The fluctuation energy is not equi-partitioned among the streamwise and cross-stream components. The RMS streamwise fluctuation is always enhanced, whereas the RMS cross-stream fluctuation is enhanced only at low free-stream intensities, and damped at higher intensities.
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