Experimental study of inertial particles clustering and settling in homogeneous turbulence

Alec J. Petersen, Lucia Baker, Filippo Coletti

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85 Scopus citations


We study experimentally the spatial distribution, settling and interaction of sub-Kolmogorov inertial particles with homogeneous turbulence. Utilizing a zero-mean-flow air turbulence chamber, we drop size-selected solid particles and study their dynamics with particle imaging and tracking velocimetry at multiple resolutions. The carrier flow is simultaneously measured by particle image velocimetry of suspended tracers, allowing the characterization of the interplay between both the dispersed and continuous phases. The turbulence Reynolds number based on the Taylor microscale ranges from , while the particle Stokes number based on the Kolmogorov scale varies between and . Clustering is confirmed to be most intense for , but it extends over larger scales for heavier particles. Individual clusters form a hierarchy of self-similar, fractal-like objects, preferentially aligned with gravity and with sizes that can reach the integral scale of the turbulence. Remarkably, the settling velocity of particles can be several times larger than the still-air terminal velocity, and the clusters can fall even faster. This is caused by downward fluid fluctuations preferentially sweeping the particles, and we propose that this mechanism is influenced by both large and small scales of the turbulence. The particle-fluid slip velocities show large variance, and both the instantaneous particle Reynolds number and drag coefficient can greatly differ from their nominal values. Finally, for sufficient loadings, the particles generally augment the small-scale fluid velocity fluctuations, which however may account for a limited fraction of the turbulent kinetic energy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)925-970
Number of pages46
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Apr 10 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2019. This is a work of the U.S. Government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States..


  • homogeneous turbulence
  • particle/fluid flows


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