Three-dimensional numerical modeling of initial mixing of thermal discharges at real-life configurations

Han Song Tang, Joongcheol Paik, Fotis Sotiropoulos, Tarang Khangaonkar

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25 Scopus citations


A three-dimensional Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model is developed for simulating initial mixing in the near field of thermal discharges at real-life geometrical configurations. The domain decomposition method with multilevel embedded overset grids is employed to handle the complexity of real-life diffusers as well as to efficiently account for the large disparity in length scales arising from the relative size of the ambient river reach and the typical diffuser diameter. An algebraic mixing length model with a Richardson-number correction for buoyancy effects is used for the turbulence closure. The governing equations are solved with a second-order-accurate, finite-volume, artificial compressibility method. The model is validated by applying it to simulate thermally stratified shear flows and negatively buoyant wall jet flows and the computed results are shown to be in good overall agreement with the experimental measurements. To demonstrate the potential of the numerical model as a powerful engineering simulation tool we apply it to simulate turbulent initial mixing of thermal discharges loaded from both single-port and multiport diffusers in a prismatic channel and a natural river. Comparisons of the CFD model results with those obtained by applying two widely used empirical mixing zone models show that the results are very similar in terms of both the rate of dilution and overall shape of the plumes. The CFD model further resolves the complex three-dimensional features of such flows, including the complex interplay of the ambient flow and thermal discharges as well as the interaction between each of discharges loaded from multiple ports, which are obviously not accessible by the simpler empirical models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1210-1224
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Hydraulic Engineering
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2008


  • Buoyant jets
  • Computational fluid dynamics technique
  • Mixing
  • Stratification
  • Thermal factors
  • Three-dimensional models
  • Turbulent flow


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