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# Mathematics Applied in Science and Technology.

**Volume 2, Number 1 (2010), pp. 71–80
**

© Research India Publications

http://www.ripublication.com/mast.htm

ANew Non-linear Parabolic Equation Describing

Centrifugal Segregation of Particles in a Fluid

D. O. Besong

Imperial College London, Department of Earth Science and Engineering

Abstract

In this work, a nonlinear parabolic equation is developed, describing the centrifu-

gal segregation of particles in a ﬂuid. The general form of this equation has been

listed in a very useful work on nonlinear PDEs, but this particular equation is not

mentioned under equations of that general form. This equation describing the cen-

trifugal segregation of particles is new, to the best of our knowledge. We consider

only mono-disperse spherical particles in an isothermal ﬂuid in a 1-D system in the

derivation of our equation.

AMS subject classiﬁcation:

Keywords:

1. Introduction

Centrifugal systems have been used to study segregation in various areas of science. In

medicine, Constandoulakis et al. [2] observed the separation of erythrocytes (i.e. particle

separation) in blood by centrifugation, while in petroleum engineering, Ratulowski et al.

[11] studied the separation of miscible hydrocarbons by using a centrifugal force as a

substitute for gravitational force. In metal casting, Fu and Xing [3] as well as Panda et al.

[9] have studied the effect of a centrifugal force on the extent that a steel roll segregates

during casting. Fu and Xing [3], as well as Panda et al. [9] analyzed the effect of a

centrifuge to the segregation of particles in molten metal during metal casting through

mathematical modelling. Moreover, Panda et al. [9] found an expression of the position

of a single particle with time, based on the centrifugal force.

Under zero acceleration, Fu and Xing [3] and Panda et al. [9] expressed the velocity

v of each particle as a result of the centrifugal force as

v = Wr, (1.1)

35K55, 70–02, 70–08, 35–01.

Centrifuge, Particle Segregation, First Principles, Derivation of

Nonlinear Equation.

72 D. O. Besong

where

W =

2a

2

ρω

2

9η

, (1.2)

where ρ is the density of pure solid minus that of pure liquid (kgm

−3

), a the radius of

the suspended particles (m), r the distance (m) of the particle from the axis of rotation,

ω the rotational speed (rad s

−1

), and η the dynamic viscosity of the ﬂuid medium (Pa.s).

Assuming laminar ﬂow, Panda et al. [9] performed force balance on a particle in a

ﬂuid in centrifuge. This resulted in a second-order ordinary differential equation with

time t as the independent variable and radial position of particle r(t ) as the dependent

variable. Solving for r(t ), Panda et al. obtained the position of a particle at any time [9]

r(t ) = R

0

e

Wt

, (1.3)

where W is given in equation (1.2), R

0

is the position of the particle at time t = 0. We

see that at large time, r will be at inﬁnity. It is our desire to derive an equation that can

model real speed rolls where r is always ﬁnite that drove us to derive the new equation.

Gutierrez et al. [5] obtained the position r(t ) of the particle by ﬁnding the general

solution of the second-order differential equation mentioned in the above paragraph.

This resulted in [5]

r(t ) = A

1

e

α

1

t

+A

2

e

α

2

t

, (1.4)

where α

1

and α

2

are the solutions of the characteristic equation of the second-order

differential equation [5]. Analysis shows that with the the particle density greater than

that of pure ﬂuid (i.e. ρ > 0), α

1

and α

2

are real and of opposite signs. The constants

A

1

and A

2

depend on the initial position of the particle, and imposing that at t = 0,

∂r

∂t

= 0 [5].

Gutierrez et al. [5] found an analytical expression for r(t ) for an initially uniform

distribution of particles in the ﬂuid by considering the initial position of the different

particles as random numbers [5]. So they generated random numbers representing the

initial positions of the uniformly distributed particles, and found the position of each

of these particles by equation (1.4). Then they repeated the process with many random

particles and found the spatial distribution of particles at any particular time t . Gutierrez

et al. [5] Panda et al. [9] offer an important way of solving for the position of each

particle, which has been very beneﬁcial to the centrifugal casting of matrix composites,

but an equation has not yet been derived to fully describe the transient concentration of

the particles in space. An advantage of an equation is that it is more efﬁcient to solve

numerically since only the volume-fraction of the particles is solved for, rather than for

the position of many random particles at each time t . In this work, we derive such an

equation so that any consistent boundary condition can be imposed.

It is useful to derive partial differential equations to describe physical phenomena

both in and outside the laboratory. Polianin [10] presents an up-to-date collection of

nonlinear partial differential equations that arise inmathematics andphysics. Anequation

describing the centrifugal segregation of particles would be desirable so that simulations

A New Non-linear Parabolic Equation Describing Centrifugal Segregation 73

Figure 1: Particle distribution after after 50 seconds of centrifuge.

representative of laboratory experiments can be carried out, especially when a numerical

method must ﬁrst be done in order to ﬁnd the required rotational speed in the laboratory

or industry.

1.1. Analaytical Solution of Gutierrez et al.

Gutierrez et al. [5] generated random numbers representing the initial positions of the

uniformly-distributed particles, and using equation (1.4) plotted the number of particles

at each position along a cylinder ﬁlled with aluminium melt. At a constant temperature

of T = 660

◦

C, the liquid (molten metal) density is ρ

L

= 2.4g cm

−3

, the density of each

particle is ρ

s

= 3.19g cm

−3

and the liquid viscosity η = 1.38 mPa ·s. The distance from

the near end of the cylinder to the axis of rotation was R

0

= 19.50 cm, and the far end

was R = 32.00 cm from the rotational axis. In the model of Gutierrez et al., the cylinder

was rotated at a constant rotational speed of ω = 250 RPM (rotations per minute). The

average radius of each particle was a = 3.75 × 10

−4

cm. Figure 1 is the solution after

50 seconds, from an initially uniform distribution [5].

2. Mathematical Formulation

The particles in a ﬂuid column free from external forces are subjected to Brownian

motion which tends to even out the particle distribution, as well as gravity segregation

which tends to separate the particles to the bottom of the column if they are denser than

the liquid (and vice-versa).

74 D. O. Besong

Brownian motion is governed by the diffusion equation. The volume ﬂux of particles

due to Brownian motion is given by (see for instance [1], [8])

J

D

= −D

∂n

∂z

or J

D

= −Dn

t

∂u

∂z

, (2.1)

where z is the spatial coordinate (directedupward), Dthe diffusioncoefﬁcient, n

t

the total

number of particles per volume at the point z (both solid and supposed ﬂuid

1

particles),

n the number of solid particles per volume at point z and u the volume-fraction of the

solid at point z.

Einstein had derived the diffusion coefﬁcient of suspended particles in a ﬂuid based

on Stokes law and the Boltzmann law [7], given by

D =

kT

6πηa

, (2.2)

where T is the constant ﬂuid temperature (K) in an isothermal container, k the Boltzmann

constant (in J.K

−1

), η the dynamic viscosity of the ﬂuid medium (Pa.s), and a the radius

of the suspended particles (m).

Besong [1] derived a ﬂux J

G

for the gravity segregation of particles. He derived an

expression for the gravity ﬂux identical to the one earlier proposed (e.g. [12], [4]) and

hence validated the previous claims from ﬁrst principles. The gravity ﬂux for particles

in terms of volume-fraction of the particles is (see for instance [1], [12] and [4])

J

G

=

4

3

πa

3

nD

kT

· ρ(1 −u)g =

4

3

πa

3

un

t

D

kT

· ρ(1 −u)g (2.3)

since the number of solid particles per unit volume n = un

t

. Besong added the two

ﬂuxes and derived a conservation equation as follows:

n

t

∂u

∂t

= −

∂J

D

s

∂z

−

∂J

G

s

∂z

. (2.4)

Since the system is assumed incompressible, and the ﬂuid is considered as particles of

same radius as the solid particles, the total number of particles (ﬂuid and solid) per unit

volume is constant everywhere. Therefore the n

t

’s cancel out leading to

∂u

∂t

= D

∂

2

u

∂z

2

+

4

3

πa

3

D

kT

ρg

∂

∂z

[u (u −1)] , (2.5)

which is the segregation-mixing equation of particles under gravity forces. Here, ρ is

the density of pure solid minus that of pure liquid (kgm

−3

), a the radius of the suspended

particles (m), g the acceleration due to gravity (ms

−2

) and t the time (s). The derivation

of equation 2.5 is elaborated in this work for revision purposes only, but it can be found

in [1].

1

To visualize n

t

, the ﬂuid is imagined as made of ﬂuid particles of the same size as the solid particles

[1].

A New Non-linear Parabolic Equation Describing Centrifugal Segregation 75

2.1. The Derivation of the Equation for Particle Segregation in a Centrifuge

Besong [1] has clearly presented a derivation for the volume ﬂux J

G

of particles in

a colloid due to gravity under the following assumptions (some of these assumptions

mentioned in [4], [7], [6], [13]):

i All particles behave as in a dilute particle system, so that they do not exert forces

on each other.

ii The velocity of the particles depends only on the local particle density.

iii No wall effects.

iv All particles are of the same size and are spherical in shape.

v The particle size is small compared with the container.

vi There is no bulk motion. In the case of bulk motion, the gravity ﬂux would be

resolved only relative to the bulk velocity.

With the same assumptions applied for the gravity segregation of particles or centrifu-

gal segregation, an analogical derivation as in [1] obtains a similar expression but with

the centripetal acceleration ω

2

r instead of g, and −r instead z for gravity. In centrifugal

segregation, −r is analogous to z because both the centrifugal force and r are oriented in

the same direction, whereas in the gravitational case g and z are in opposite directions.

The derivation performed by substituting g in the ﬂux due to gravity (equation (2.3)) by

ω

2

r, and the space variable z by −r results in the volume ﬂux of particles due to the

centrifuge, given by

J

= −

4

3

πa

3

un

t

D

kT

· ρ(1 −u)ω

2

r. (2.6)

The group of parameters

4

3

πa

3

un

t

D

kT

· ρr =

2a

2

ρω

2

r

9η

= v (see equation 1.1).

Summing J

D

and J

**and then applying mass conservation within a control volume
**

(as in equation (2.4)) and simplifying, the n

t

s cancel out leading to

∂u

∂t

= D

∂

2

u

∂r

2

−

4

3

πa

3

D

kT

ρω

2

∂

∂r

[ru (u −1)] . (2.7)

Letting α =

4πa

3

3kT

ρω

2

, the centrifugal segregation-mixing equation of particles in a

ﬂuid medium is given by

∂u

∂t

= D

∂

2

u

∂r

2

−αD

∂

∂r

[ru (u −1)] , (2.8)

76 D. O. Besong

hence

∂u

∂t

= D

∂

2

u

∂r

2

−αDr

∂

∂r

[u (u −1)] −αDu (u −1) . (2.9)

In order to identify the general form of equation (2.9) on the list of nonlinear PDEs

presented in [10] let us write equation (2.9) as

∂u

∂t

= D

∂

2

u

∂r

2

+f (r, u)

∂u

∂r

+g(u). (2.10)

where f (r, u) = −αDr

∂

∂u

u(u −1) = −αDr(2u −1) and g(u) = −αDu(u −1).

Polianin [10] lists various parabolic PDEs with one space variable as equations of

the form

∂u

∂t

= D

∂

2

u

∂z

2

+f (z, t, u)

∂u

∂z

+g(z, t, u) (2.11)

(i.e. with the general formof equations (2.10)) or (2.11). However, among the equations

listed under parabolic equations of the form of equations (2.10)) or (2.11), none of them

have f (z, u) = −αDz(2u − 1) and g(u) = −αDu(u − 1) as in the newly-derived

equation. Moreover, no connection has been made between centrifugal segregation and

the general form (equations (2.10)) and (2.11)).

3. Results and Discussion

In this section, we present the results of the ﬁnite difference simulation of equation (2.9)

at various times. We compare the result at t = 50 seconds to that of Gutierrez et al. [5].

Since the molten metal is in a closed cylinder, the boundary condition we used is that

of zero-ﬂux at the boundaries:

D

∂u

∂r

−αDru (u −1) at r = R

0

and r = R (3.1)

Gutierrez et al. [5] applied a uniformdistribution, but they did not mention the initial

concentration. We prefer to use an initial condition of uniform equal volume fraction of

liquid and solid particles for our simulation of equation (2.9), i.e. u

0

= 0.5. Figure 2

shows the numerical solution of equation (2.9) at various times, using the same data as

Gutierrez et al. [5].

If we assume that the cross-sectional area Aof the cylinder perpendicular to the radial

direction is 1cm

2

, then our initial number of particles is given by

N =

A

4

3

πa

3

32

19.5

udr (3.2)

For particles of radius a = 3.75 × 10

−4

cm, we have N =

10

12

4

3

π ×3.75

3

× 6.25 =

2.8 × 10

10

particles. In our simulation, this number stayed constant at all time-steps,

A New Non-linear Parabolic Equation Describing Centrifugal Segregation 77

Figure 2: Numerical simulation of the derived PDE.

Figure 3: Comparison between the derived PDE and that of Gutierrez after 50 seconds.

since equation (2.9) was derived from conservation laws and there was no ﬂux at the

boundaries (equation 3.1). The number of particles in the whole body of molten metal has

to de conserved. One great disadvantage of just making do with a differential equation

of the spatial position of the particles as done by Gutierrez et al. is that the particles will

not be conserved within the molten metal, as we shall show. Another great advantage

of the new nonlinear pde is is that at each time-step only the volume-fraction for say 21

grid-points are solved for, whereas with the method used by Gutierrez et al., the position

of each of the 2.8 × 10

10

particles have to be simulated as random numbers therefore

numerically inefﬁcient.

3.1. Comparison with the Solution of Gutierrez et al.

Figure 3 compares the numerical simulation of equation (2.9) to the analytical solution

of Gutierrez et al. [5].

To allow for a consistent comparison, we assume that 150 particles in [5] (see ﬁgure

1) is equivalent to complete segregation (i.e. a volume fraction of 1). This is because

78 D. O. Besong

the concentration of the uniform initial distribution was not revealed in [5], nor the

cross-sectional area of the cylinder. The cross-sectional area of the cylinder would be

necessary to transform number of particles to volume-fraction. As said above, let us

assume the cross-sectional area was 1 cm

2

.

The large deviation between the simulation of the newly-derived equation and that

of Gutierrez et al. [5] can be attributed to the following reasons:

i In [9] and [5] no boundary condition was possible to implement at the boundaries

of the cylinder, which means in their solution, particles closer to the far boundary

(i.e. at r = R = 32.00 cm) would go out of the cylinder. In our equation, there

was a zero-ﬂux boundary condition and so all the particles are conserved in the

ﬂuid. Consequently the solutions have to be different.

ii The analytical solutions in [9] and [5] (see equations (1.3) and (1.4)) mean that at

large time all the particles would have position r = ∞. Therefore even at small

time, the particles initially close to the far boundary are lost. However, if complete

separation occurs at the steady state of new equation, all the particles still in the

cylinder (see ﬁgure 2).

iii All the above points imply that the particles were not totally conserved in the

solution represented in [5], ﬁgure 1, whereas the number of particles is conserved

with the new equation when no-ﬂux boundaries are imposed. The centrifugally-

induced ﬂux of the particles in equation (2.9) has threshold solid volume fractions

(i.e. J

**(u) = 0 when u = 0 or when u = 1). This is a necessary property of
**

a segregating ﬂux which does not allow for non-physically valid concentrations.

In the solution of Gutierrez et al. [5], the motion of the particles were only

characterized by a constant velocity v. In that case, even if some sort of numerical

barrier were to be imposed at the outer boundary where r = R, particles would

keep piling at the boundary above physically possible numbers. Therefore the

results would still be different from our simulation

Since our simulation is conservative, any solution for the same problem which is

not conservative will differ from our simulation. However, there is a common trend

between our solution and that of Gutierrez et al. [5], of the progressive segregation of

the particles from the ﬂuid. The solution of Gutierrez et al. [5] offered a qualitative

study of the variation of the distribution of particles in a centrifuge at a time when an

equation closely describing the phenomenon was not available. The new PDE derived

in this work from conservation principles offers an enhancement in the modelling and

mathematical analysis of the centrifugal segregation of particles.

4. Conclusions

Anew nonlinear parabolic equation describing particle segregation in a centrifugal sys-

tem is derived. The derived equation (equation (2.9)) has not yet appeared in literature,

A New Non-linear Parabolic Equation Describing Centrifugal Segregation 79

to the best of my knowledge. To the best of my knowledge, an equation has not been doc-

umented to fully describe the centrifugal segregation of particles in a ﬂuid. The general

form (equation (2.10)) of the newly-derived equation has appeared in literature [10], but

none of the particular equations resembles the newly derived equation (equation (2.9)).

Even the most recent contributions to the ﬁeld of centrifugal segregation [5], [3] and [9]

did not implement this equation, nor cited any previous work that did so. I think that this

connection with such a useful physical system will add one more important equation to

the list listed presented by Polianin [10]. The new equation will be useful in modelling

the centrifugal segregation of particles.

5. Future Work

An analytical solution of equation (2.9) for the no-ﬂux boundary conditions in this work

would be desirable. This work can also be extended to poly-disperse particles. An

analytical solution for this problem with other boundary conditions in ﬁnite space would

also be desirable.

References

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