Sedimentation from binary suspensions in a turbulent gravity current along a V-shaped valley

Mériaux CA, Kurz-Besson CB
J. Fluid Mech. (2012), vol. 712, pp. 624–645,

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We present a study of bidispersed particulate gravity currents at high Reynolds numbers flowing along a V-shaped valley. The speed and width of the currents, the mass deposited by the currents and the density of the deposits were examined by both a box model and lock-exchange experiments in a 5 m long tank. Silicon carbide and glass beads were used for the bidispersed suspension models. The initial conditions of the currents were similar, except that the grain size of the glass beads was successively chosen to be 2, 2.5 and 4 times that of the silicon carbide. For all experiments a Stokes’ settling velocity model, assuming that both particles are spherical, gives a settling rate of the glass beads that is greater than that of the silicon carbide by a factor ranging from 1.6 to 16.5. When the ratio of the Stokes’ settling velocity of the glass beads to that of the silicon carbide is greater than ~6, we find a complete agreement between the box model and the experiment. In particular, the deposit shows a substantial decline in the mass of the coarser glass beads in the first metre, so that it only contains the finer silicon carbide further downstream. By contrast, when the Stokes’ settling velocity ratio is less than ~4, only the speed of the current and the total sedimented mass can be well described by the box model. The experimental deposit is otherwise characterized by a slightly increasing density, which the box model fails to match. There is no difference in the deposit density across the valley. For all experiments in the V-shaped valley, the width of the currents decreases with time t according to t-2/7. Analogue experiments in a flat-bottom tank were also performed to assess the influence of the valley on the sedimentation dynamics described above. A similar behaviour with settling velocity ratios was found. This study eventually shows the need for considering particle interactions in even dilute gravity currents at high Reynolds numbers.