Motion of finite-size spheres released in a turbulent boundary layer

Yi Hui Tee, Diogo C. Barros, Ellen K. Longmire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Individual magnetic wax spheres with specific gravities of 1.006, 1.054 and 1.152 were released from rest on a smooth wall in water at friction Reynolds numbers, Reτ=680 and 1320 (sphere diameters d+=58 and 122 viscous units, respectively). Three-dimensional tracking was conducted to understand the effects of turbulence and wall friction on sphere motions. Spheres subjected to sufficient mean shear initially lifted off of the wall before descending back towards it. These lifting spheres translated with the fluid above the wall, undergoing saltation or resuspension, with minimal rotations about any axis. By contrast, spheres that did not lift off upon release mainly slid along the wall. These denser spheres lagged the fluid more significantly due to greater wall friction. As they slid downstream, they began to roll forward after which small repeated lift-off events occurred. These spheres also rotated about both the streamwise and wall-normal axes. In all cases, the sphere trajectories were limited to the buffer and logarithmic regions, and all wall collisions were completely inelastic. In the plane parallel to the wall, the spheres migrated in the spanwise direction about 12% of the streamwise distance traveled suggesting that spanwise forces are important. Variations in sphere kinematics in individual runs were likely induced by high and low momentum zones in the boundary layer, vortex shedding in the sphere wakes, and wall friction. The repeated lift-offs of the forward rolling denser spheres were attributed to a Magnus lift.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103462
JournalInternational Journal of Multiphase Flow
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Nicholas Morse, Ben Hiltbrand and Alessio Gardi for their help with this project. This work was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation ( NSF CBET-1510154 ).


  • Particle tracking
  • Particle-laden flow
  • Turbulent boundary layer


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