The effects of fluid viscoelasticity on the settling behaviour of horizontally aligned spheres
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A study on the interaction of particles settling in non-Newtonian fluids of shear-thinning, thixotropic and viscoelastic characteristics has been conducted. Key aspects of the rheological characteristics of the fluids that influence the interaction of the particles were examined by analysing the trajectories of two particles that are initially placed side-by-side in the fluid medium. The interaction of the particles was found to be highly dependent on the separation distance that is initially set between them. If the initial distance is smaller than a critical value, the spheres would tend to attract and converge. In cases where the initial distance is greater than this critical value, the two spheres would tend to diverge, resulting in a slight (~20%) increase in their separation distance over their course of settling. This tendency to diverge was found to diminish as the initial distance is increased further from the critical value. The magnitude of the critical separation distance was found to be primarily dependent on the normal stresses of the fluids. A correlation was thus proposed based on this observation. In cases where the two spheres do attract and converge, it was found that the spheres tend to follow a non-symmetrical trajectory, where one of the spheres possesses a slightly lower settling velocity than the other. As a result, the spheres appear to re-arrange themselves into a vertically aligned configuration. Once aligned, the shear-thinning and thixotropic characteristics of the fluid causes the lagging sphere to accelerate and collide with the leading sphere. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
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