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The paper presents results of experimental and numerical investigations of the flow around T-shaped thin bodies.

The paper presents results of experimental and numerical investigations of the flow around T-shaped thin bodies.

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© (2013) Trans Tech Publications, Switzerland

doi:10.4028/www.scientific.net/AMM.332.3

Flow around T-Profiles

Mihai SCHIAUA1,a , Andrei DRAGOMIRESCU1,b , and Carmen-Anca SAFTA1,c

University Politehnica of Bucharest, Department of Hydraulics, Hydraulic Machinery and

Environmental Engineering, 313 Splaiul Independentei, Bucharest, Romania

a

mschiaua@yahoo.com, b andrei.dragomirescu@upb.ro, c safta.carmenanca@gmail.com

Keywords: viscous flow, T-profile, vortex street, visualization, flow measurement, numerical simula-

tion

Abstract. This paper investigates both experimentally and numerically the flow of a viscous fluid

around T-profiles, i.e. T-shaped bodies, having different geometries. Of main interest it was the vor-

tex shedding behind the T-profiles with an eye towards its application to flow measurement in open

channels. Another purpose of the study was to assess to what extent different numerical models can

be used to accurately predict the flow in the vortex street behind T-profiles.

Introduction

Known as Bénard-Kármán vortex street, the formation of alternate vortices in the wake behind a bluff

body is one of the classical problems of fluid dynamics. The vortices are a result of the flow separation

at the back of the body, which occurs from a certain value of the Reynolds number onwards. With

increasing Reynolds numbers, the vortices start to detach periodically and alternately on either side of

the body. They form the vortex street as they are carried off by the main flow and eventually disappear

as a result of viscous friction.

Birkhoff [1] demonstrated theoretically that in an inviscid fluid the concentration of vortices is

limited to circles having diameters of about 25% of the distance between two successive vortices in a

row. Schlichting [2] showed that the flow in the wake behind any obstacle becomes turbulent. Also,

the velocity profile in the wake at a large distance from the body is independent of the body shape.

Roshko [3] observed experimentally that a geometric similarity exists between all vortex streets. From

his data, he derived features of a vortex street that are independent of the Reynolds number and he pos-

tulated a universal Strouhal number that is related to wake width. Dumitrescu and Cazacu [4] carried

out experimental studies of the laminar viscous flow past a flat plate placed at different attack angles

in an open channel. They observed the flow patterns behind the plate at Reynolds numbers in the range

between 0.2 and 2 000 for attack angles of 0◦ , 45◦ , and 90◦ . Balan et. al. [5] undertook experimental

and numerical investigations of the planar complex flow of a weak elastic polymer solution around a

T-profile placed in an open channel. It was observed that, for the same Reynolds number, the wake in

the polymer solution is significantly shorter than in a Newtonian fluid.

The study presented in this paper was focused on experimental and numerical investigations of a

Newtonian fluid flowing around T-profiles placed in an open channel. Experimental results obtained

so far and presented in the cited literature show that the Strouhal number calculated with the frequency

of vortex shedding behind a bluff body remains practically constant and independent of the Reynolds

number for a certain range of Reynolds numbers. Thus, it becomes possible to determine the average

flow velocity and the flow rate by measuring the vortex shedding frequency. This is basically the

working principle of vortex meters designed for flow measurement in pressure driven flows through

pipes. The purpose of the present study was twofold. On the one hand, it was aimed at investigating

whether a T-profile could be used as a ``shedder'' (or vortex generator) for flow measurement in gravity

driven flows through open channels. On the other hand, it was of interest to find a numerical model,

either laminar or turbulent, which is best suited to simulate the wall-bounded flow around the T-profile

All rights reserved. No part of contents of this paper may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the written permission of TTP,

www.ttp.net. (ID: 141.85.27.223-08/05/13,12:57:32)

4 OPTIROB 2013

while retaining as much as possible of the real features of such a flow. Once found, the model can be

used to easily extend the experimental results. The main reason to resort to numerical simulations for

this study is the fact that they are by far less time and resource consuming than the experiments.

In the following, the experimental installation and working procedure are described and experi-

mental results are presented and discussed. Next, the numerical simulations are presented in terms of

computational domain, equations to be solved, boundary conditions and numerical algorithms. The

numerical results are compared with the experimental ones. Finally, conclusions are drawn with re-

gard to the possibility to use T-profiles for flow measurement in open channels and to the degree to

which different numerical models are able to correctly predict the viscous flow around such profiles.

Experimental

The viscous flow around T-profiles was studied in a closed-circuit open channel. The sketch of the

channel is depicted in Fig.1. The channel is 3 m long, about 1.2 m wide and 0.35 m high and has four

zones: the test area (1) followed by a 180◦ turn (2), a divergent straight section (3), and a second turn

(4) consisting of two 90◦ elbows. The test area has a width lC of 0.23 m and a length of 1.025 m. The

first turn accommodates a cross-flow runner which pumps the working fluid. The cross-flow runner is

driven by an electric motor through a reducing gear which offers the possibility to change the speed.

To assure a flow free of vortices at the entrance of the test area, the elbows of the second turn are

foreseen with flow straighteners and the junction between the last elbow and the test area is made by

means of a convergent section. The test area is foreseen with a lighting system which provides enough

light for taking pictures of the flow paths with relatively small shutter speeds.

The T-profiles were made of 3 mm thick sheets of Plexiglas. They were placed with the stem

along the axis of the working area pointing upstream and with the head pointing downstream. The

main dimensions of a profile are the stem length, b, and the head width, Lt . To easily distinguish

between them, the T-profiles are denoted by a T followed by the length b in mm, a dash, and the width

Lt in mm. For example, T500-110 is a T-profile having a stem which is 500 mm long and a head which

is 110 mm wide.

All experiments were made with water as working fluid. To make the flow paths evident, very

small particles of Plexiglas were used. They were blown uniformly on the free surface of the flowing

water at the entry of the test area and, after flowing around the T-profile and in its wake, they were

collected with a strainer before entering into the cross-flow runner. The flow paths were photographed

with a bridge camera that provides full manual control over aperture size and shutter speed. For each

case, the shutter speed was set according to the flow-rate and to the average velocity of the vortices

shed by the T-profile.

Applied Mechanics and Materials Vol. 332 5

On every picture, the length xm of the trace left by a Plexiglas particle along the channel axis

upstream of the T-profile was measured. The exposure time texp was read from the EXIF data of the

picture. The maximum velocity in the channel was calculated with the formula

Table 1: Blockage ratios α for different dimensions of the T-profiles used in the experiments.

xm

V = . (1)

texp

Successive pictures were examined in order to find successive detachments of vortices behind the T-

profile. The vortex shedding frequency f was calculated as the inverse of the average time difference

between two successive detachments. Two significant parameters of the flow are the Reynolds and

the Strouhal numbers which were calculated with the formulas

V lC f Lt

Re = , St = , (2)

ν V

where ν = 10−6 m2 /s is the kinematic viscosity of water at the working temperature (about 20◦ C).

Another importand parameters are the blockage ratio, α = lC /Lt , the aspect ratio, λ = b/Lt , the

velocity of the vortices, VT = dpv /tdcs , and the wake length, LS . The blockage ratio is defined as the

ratio between channel width and profile width. The vortex velocity is calculated based on the time

tdcs between two successive photos and on the distance dpv traveled by the vortex within this time

interval. The dimensions, corresponding aspect ratios, and blockage ratios of the T-profiles used in

the experiments are summarized in Table 1

The experiments were carried out in a channel were the lateral walls have a strong influence on

the flow around an obstacle. To account for this influence and to make possible comparisons with

previous studies on the Bénard-Kármán vortex street, the velocity was corrected with the formula

α

V′ = V. (3)

α−1

With this velocity corrected Reynolds and Strouhal numbers were also calculated.

6 OPTIROB 2013

The experiments were performed for Reynolds numbers in the range from 4 000 to 20 000. In this

range, the flow can be considered subcritical according to Rusu [6]. Fig.2 shows typical flow config-

urations observed behind different T-profiles during the experiments. In all cases alternate vortices

formed in the wake of the profiles. With the profiles in the series T25-x, the number of vortices was

between 4 and 9 at different flow times. The picture changed for the profiles in the series T100-x,

T300-x, and T500-x. As long as the Reynolds number remained below 7 000, up to 4 vortices were

observed. With increasing Reynolds numbers, the vortices dissipated more rapidly, so that their num-

ber decreased. Thus, for Reynolds numbers higher than 11 000 only 2 to 3 vortices were observed. The

variation of the Strouhal number depending on Reynolds number is presented in Fig. 3. It can be seen

that the Strouhal number remains almost constant at higher values of the blockage ratio, typically for

α ≥ 3.5. This is a favorable finding from the point of view of using a T-profile as vortex generator

in a flow meter for open channels. When the Strouhal number is constant and known beforehand as a

result of experiments, only the vortex shedding frequency f must be measured in order to determine

the flow rate. The reference velocity in the channel can be calculated with the formula

f Lt

V = . (4)

St

By multiplying this velocity with the cross-sectional area of the flow and with an appropriate discharge

coefficient found experimentally, the flow rate can be easily determined. It should be noted that, since

we deal with a free surface flow, the depth of the fluid in the channel must also be measured.

Applied Mechanics and Materials Vol. 332 7

Numerical simulations

The simulations presented in this paper were carried out for the unsteady viscous flow around the

profile T500-110. The computational domain, presented in Fig. 4, was meshed with an unstructured

grid consisting in 50 838 cells of triangular shape and of boundary layer type.

The continuity and momentum equations that describe the flow were integrated numerically in

space and time using the Finite Volume Method and the segregated pressure based solver implemented

in the commercial program Fluent. The equations were discretized in space with a second order upwind

scheme and in time with second order accurate backward differences. A first set of simulations were

made in the hypothesis that the flow is laminar. Subsequent simulations were performed considering

the flow turbulent and using the following turbulence models: standard k-ϵ, SST k-ω (Shear Stress

Transport k-ω), and RMS (Reynolds Stress Model). Since no experimental data regarding turbulence

was available, the default values of the turbulence models were kept unchanged. The working fluid

was water with the density ρ = 1000 kg/m3 and the dynamic viscosity µ = 0.001 Pa s. A mass flow

rate of 17.4 kg/s was imposed as boundary condition at inlet, while the boundary condition at outlet

was the evacuation of the entire mass flow rate. To the mass flow rate corresponds an average velocity

of 0.07565 m/s that gives a Reynolds number of 17 400 which matches the experiment depicted in Fig.

2c. For all turbulence models, a turbulence intensity of 2% was assumed at the inlet. At all solid walls

the usual condition of no-slip was prescribed. The time step used in simulations was of 0.1 s except

of the laminar case that required a time step of 0.01 s.

All simulations were performed in two stages. In the first stage -- the flow build up stage --, the

numerical integrations were advanced in time until a stabilization of the drag coefficient of the T-

profile around an average value was observed for more than 30 s of the simulation time. In the second

stage, the flow equations were integrated for another 90 s. At each time step, the convergence criterion

was the drop of the residuals of all equations below 10−4 .

Some of the results obtained are presented in Fig. 5. These results are to be compared with the

experimental flow depicted in Fig. 2. As it can be seen, the laminar model is able to reproduce the

vortex shedding (Fig. 5a. However, in comparison with the vortices observed experimentally, those

obtained numerically seem to be "squeezed'' behind the T-profile. Neither the k-ϵ model (Fig. 5b, nor

the SST k-ω model (Fig. 5c were able to predict vortex detachment. In both cases, the flow remained

symmetrical, showing two identical stationary vortices behind the profile. The closest to reality was

the RSM model. When comparing Fig. 2 and Fig. 5d, it can be seen that the RSM model reproduces

with good accuracy in terms of position and size both the vortices shed behind the T-profile and the

small vortices that appear from time to time at the solid walls.

Conclusions

The viscous ﬂow of a Newtonian ﬂuid around T-proﬁles placed in an open channel was investigated

both experimentally and numerically. The study aimed at assessing to what extent T-proﬁles could be

used as “shedders” for ﬂow meters and what are the most appropriate numerical models that best retain

8 OPTIROB 2013

the characteristics of wall-bounded free surface ﬂows around T-proﬁles. The experiments showed that,

for values of the blockage ratio larger than 3.5, the Strouhal number calculated with the frequency of

the vortex shedding behind the proﬁles remains almost constant. The small deviations of the Strouhal

number from constant values are most probably caused by the inherent measurement errors. Neverthe-

less, the experimental ﬁndings allow us to conclude that T-proﬁles having properly chosen dimensions

could be successfully used as vortex generators for ﬂow meters in gravity driven ﬂows through open

channels.

Numerical simulations were carried out only for the ﬂow behind proﬁle T500-110 at Re = 17400.

Of the models chosen, the standard k-e model and the SST k-w model were unable to reproduce any

vortex shedding. Only the laminar model and the Reynolds Stress Model were able to predict the

vortex detachment behind the proﬁle, the latter offering results that are the closest to reality.

References

[1] G. Birkhoff, The formation of vortex street, Journal of Applied Physics 24 (1953) 98-103.

[2] H. Schlichting, Boundary-Layer Theory, McGraw Hill Book Co., Columbus, 1968.

[3] A. Roshko, On the drag and shedding frequency of two-dimensional bluff bodies. Technical Re-

port TN 3169, NACA, US Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1954.

[4] D. Dumitrescu, M.D. Cazacu, Theoretical and experimental considerations on the flow of viscous

fluids around a plate at low and average Reynolds numbers, ZAMM 50 (1970) 257-280.

[5] C. Balan, V. Legat, A. Neagoe, D. Nistoran, Experimental investigations and numerical simula-

tions for an open channel flow of a weak elastic polymer solution around a T profile, Journal of

Experiments in Fluids 36 (2004) 408-418.

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