The Unsteady Motion of Solid Bodies in Creeping Flows

J. Feng and D. D. Joseph

J. Fluid Mech. 303, 83-102 (1995)

Abstract  In treating unsteady particle motions in creeping flows, a quasi-steady approximation is often used, which assumes that the particle's motion is so slow that it is comprised of a series of steady states. In each of these states, the fluid is in a steady Stokes flow and the total force and torque on the particle are zero. This paper examines the validity of the quasi-steady method. For simple cases of sedimenting spheres, previous work has shown that neglecting the unsteady forces causes a cumulative error in the trajectory of the spheres. Here we will study the unsteady motion of solid bodies in several more complex flows: the rotation of an ellipsoid in a simple shear flow, the sedimentation of two elliptic cylinders and four circular cylinders in a quiescent fluid and the motion of an elliptic cylinder in a Poiseuille flow in a two-dimensional channel. The motion of the fluid is obtained by direct numerical simulation and the motion of the particles is determined by solving their equations of motion with solid inertia taken into account. Solutions with the unsteady inertia of the fluid included or neglected are compared with the quasi-steady solutions. For some flows, the effects of the solid inertia and the unsteady inertia of the fluid are important quantitatively but not qualitatively. In other cases, the character of the particles' motion is changed. In particular, the unsteady effects tend to suppress the periodic oscillations generated by the quasi-steady approximation. Thus, the results of quasi-steady calculations are never uniformly valid and can be completely misleading. The conditions under which the unsteady effects at small Reynolds numbers are important are explored and the implications for modeling of suspension flows are addressed.