Large-eddy simulation of flow turbulence in clarification systems


Prediction of turbulent flow is required for design and assessment of clarifier systems that have been implemented throughout history to treat water in the urban water cycle through physical clarification. Yet, turbulent flow modeling is a relatively new tool that has not existed until the last half-century and can be, and often is, a tenuous component in a computational fluid dynamics simulation of unit operations and processes. Common Reynolds-averaged Navier–Stokes equation (RANS) approaches can be inadequate to obtain consistent and accurate flow solutions. In contrast, this study presents an application of large-eddy simulations (LES) for a clarification system with a high-order spectral element method employing 48 million degrees of freedom. Turbulent and unsteady flow characteristics are investigated, and statistics are examined for such a system. Simulation results are compared with laser Doppler anemometry measurements for mean flow velocity, turbulence kinetic energy, and Reynolds shear stress. LES results agree well with measurements, and the differences between LES and measurements are generally less than the reported measurement error. LES results capture the transition behavior from a jet-like flow at the near-inlet region to an open-channel flow at the downstream end of the system. Furthermore, LES results reveal that the widely adopted log-law of a classical turbulent boundary layer is not established in the system even at the most downstream location. Preliminary examination of commonly used RANS models identifies the challenges in application of RANS to such systems. The results from this study provide a benchmark for turbulence modeling of common water clarification systems.

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Li, H., Balachandar, S. & Sansalone, J. Large-eddy simulation of flow turbulence in clarification systems. Acta Mech (2021).

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