A Three-Dimensional Computation of the Force and Torque on an Ellipsoid Settling Slowly through a Viscoelastic Fluid

J. Feng, D. D. Joseph, R. Glowinski and T. W. Pan

J. Fluid Mech. 283, 1-16 (1995)

Abstract  The orientation of an ellipsoid falling in a viscoelastic fluid is studied by methods of perturbation theory. For small fall velocity, the fluid's rheology is described by a second-order fluid model. The solution of the problem can be expressed by a dual expansion in two small parameters: the Reynolds number representing the inertial effect and the Weissenberg number representing the effect of the non-Newtonian stress. Then the original problem is broken into three canonical problems: the zeroth order Stokes problem for a translating ellipsoid and two first order problems, one for inertia and one for second-order rheology. A Stokes operator is inverted in each of the three cases. The problems are solved numerically on a three-dimensional domain by a finite element method with fictitious domains, and the force and torque on the body are evaluated. The results show that the signs of the perturbation pressure and velocity around the particle for inertia are reversed by viscoelasticity. The torques are also of opposite sign: inertia turns the major axis of the ellipsoid perpendicular to the fall; normal stresses turn the major axis parallel to fall. The competition of these two effects gives rise to an equilibrium tilt angle between 0o and 90o which the settling ellipsoid would eventually assume. The equilibrium tilt angle is a function of the elasticity number, which is the ratio of the Weissenberg number and the Reynolds number. Since this ratio is independent of the fall velocity, the perturbation results do not explain the sudden turning of a long body which occurs when a critical fall velocity is exceeded. This is not surprising because the theory is valid only for slow sedimentation. However, the results do seem to agree qualitatively with "shape tilting" observed at low fall velocities.