3D unsteady RANS modeling of complex hydraulic engineering flows. II: Model validation and flow physics

Liang Ge, Seung Oh Lee, Fotis Sotiropoulos, Terry Sturm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


A chimera overset grid flow solver is developed for solving the unsteady Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes (RANS) equations in arbitrarily complex, multiconnected domains. The details of the numerical method were presented in Part I of this paper. In this work, the method is validated and applied to investigate the physics of flow past a real-life bridge foundation mounted on a fixed flat bed. It is shown that the numerical model can reproduce large-scale unsteady vortices that contain a significant portion of the total turbulence kinetic energy. These coherent motions cannot be captured in previous steady three-dimensional (3D) models. To validate the importance of the unsteady motions, experiments are conducted in the Georgia Institute of Technology scour flume facility. The measured mean velocity and turbulence kinetic energy profiles are compared with the numerical simulation results and are shown to be in good agreement with the numerical simulations. A series of numerical tests is carried out to examine the sensitivity of the solutions to grid refinement and investigate the effect of inflow and far-field boundary conditions. As further validation of the numerical results, the sensitivity of the turbulence kinetic energy profiles on either side of the complex pier bent to a slight asymmetry of the approach flow observed in the experiments is reproduced by the numerical model. In addition, the computed flat-bed flow characteristics are analyzed in comparison with the scour patterns observed in the laboratory to identify key flow features responsible for the initiation of scour. Regions of maximum shear velocity are shown to correspond to maximum scour depths in the shear zone to either side of the upstream pier, but numerical values of vertical velocity are found to be very important in explaining scour and deposition patterns immediately upstream and downstream of the pier bent. Journal of Hydraulic Engineering

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)809-820
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Hydraulic Engineering
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2005


  • Bridge foundations
  • Hydraulic engineering
  • Hydraulic models
  • Numerical models
  • Scour
  • Simulation
  • Turbulent flow


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