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A Comparison of RANS-Based Turbulence Modeling for

Flow over a Wall-Mounted Square Cylinder


P. L. Davis1, A. T. Rinehimer2, and M.Uddin3
N C Motorsports and Automotive Research Center, Department of Mechanical Engineering and
Engineering Science, The University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC 28223, USA
1

Email: pdavis24@uncc.edu
Email: arinehim@uncc.edu
3
Email: muddin@uncc.edu s
2

ABSTRACT
Using experimental data from a study of flow over a
wall-mounted square cylinder (h=4d) as a baseline,
three Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes turbulence
models are used in a commercial CFD code StarCCM+ to compare the relative accuracy of the tested
models. In virtually every standard of comparison
applied in this study, the Realizable with a twolayer treatment proved to be far superior to both the
V2F (All + hybrid wall treatment) and the
models.
To observe mesh dependence for each of the models,
all three were run on three different polyhedral mesh
cases. Resulting first prism-layer heights of y+12,
y+5, and y+1 allowed comparison of results with
the mesh resolved to the buffer layer, the buffer
layer/viscous sublayer transformation, and into the
viscous sublayer, respectively. In all cases, the
Realizable proved superior.

The mesh study also suggests that applying the twolayer treatment to Realizable allows it to
operate well into the viscous sublayer, an area in
which models are traditionally expected to
suffer degradation in accuracy. The scheme,
however, does not show improvements with
increased mesh quality. In contradiction to the
expected results, mesh independence is reached by
y+5 for in this study.
1. INTRODUCTION

To perform a veracity check of popular RANS


turbulence models in predicting separated flows,
experimental data reported by Bourgeois et al is used
as a basis of comparison. The flow being examined
consists of a single wall-mounted square cylinder of

dimensions ( / =4) sitting within a steady, wellprofiled air flow of Reynolds number Re=12,000.1
Time and phase-averaged flow data sets as well as
velocity profiles for a three-dimensional grid are
made available by the organizers of the 2012 CFDSC
Challenge.2
2. COMPUTATIONAL EQUIPMENT
All CFD simulations were performed using the
commercial CFD code Star-CCM+ version 6.04 by
CD-Adapco. All simulations were performed on the
UNC-Charlotte cluster with 32 cores. Additional postprocessing was performed using EnSight by CEI.
3.

SURFACE & VOLUME MESHING

All CAD data were drawn and surface meshed using


ANSA by Beta CAE. All volume meshing was
performed within Star-CCM+ using a polyhedral
meshing scheme. A polyhedral scheme was chosen
due to the omni-directional nature of wall-bounded
turbulent flows (Timothy Yen, CD-ADAPCO,
personal communication, February 23, 2012). For the
best computational accuracy, an ideal mesh would
have each cell oriented with one face normal to the
flow. When compared to a tetrahedral or hexahedral
cell, a polyhedral cell has more faces, and therefore it
has more optimal flow directions (normal to a face)
than a tetrahedral or hexahedral cell. With more
potential optimal flow directions, the polyhedral cell
has an increased likelihood of a particular flow
direction being at or near the optimal flow direction
of one of the polyhedral cell faces. Also, polyhedral
cells have more neighbors which allows for better
gradient approximations, especially near boundaries
and corners.3
As a starting point, a mesh with ~16x106 cells was
generated with polyhedral cells, to be called the

coarse mesh case hereafter. After preliminary


simulations and subsequent examinations of the +
values, two additional meshes were created. The
medium mesh with ~26x106 cells had further
refinements in the floor, behind the cylinder, and
around the cylinder surfaces in order to attain a
In the fine mesh case,
maximum + 5 .
additional refinements were made to the cells around
the cylinder edges and the prism-layer meshes on the
tunnel floor. This increased the total cell count to
~29x106 and reduced the first prism layer heights
down to produce a + 1 . Even though some
simulations may have suggested further refinements
could yield slight improvements, for comparative
purposes all simulations were run on these three
meshes.
Total Volume Cells
Floor Tot. Prism Hgt.
Floor Prism Levels
Floor Prism 1st Hgt.
Cyl. Total Prism Hgt.
Cyl. Prism Levels
Cyl. Prism 1st Hgt.
Cyl. Corners

Coarse
~16x106
4mm
12
0.185mm
4mm
12
0.185mm
0.25mm

Medium
~26x106
9mm
12
0.0186mm
9mm
12
0.0186mm
0.125mm

Fine
~29x106
9mm
20
0.0186mm
9mm
20
0.0186mm
0.125mm

Table 1-Volume Mesh Control Values


4. TURBULENCE MODELS
In order to examine a range of RANS modeling, three
versions of and turbulence models are
selected from the available Star CCM+ physics
models for detailed examination. The three models
are used with all default settings given in version
6.04. The first model, the Standard , is a wellestablished model capable of resolving through the
boundary layer.4 The second model is Realizable
, an improvement over the standard model.5
schemes model turbulence based on turbulent
core flows, making them traditionally unsuitable for
applications in the viscous sublayer.6 And finally the
third model examined is the V2F variant of .
This model is expected to offer the possibilities of
capturing near-wall turbulence effects more
accurately.7
4.1 Setup

Since is capable of resolving flow through the


boundary layer, accuracy is expected to improve as
the mesh size is reduced to move + into the viscous
sublayer ( + 5). Salim and Cheah6 suggested this
approach and, accordingly, the fine mesh was tuned
to result in a near-wall prism layer of + 1.

4.2 K-Epsilon Realizable Setup


As mentioned, the traditional model is not
well-suited in resolving flows in near-wall regions.
At or near the viscous sublayer, the viscous forces are
dominant over the turbulent forces, effectively
damping any effects of turbulence. Due to this
damping, traditional cant resolve flows in this
region, and thus the medium mesh is designed with a
near-wall prism layer that yields + 5. It could be
expected that resolving at a lower value, such
as the fine meshs value of + 1, could potentially
show no improvement. There is likelihood that this
may even be detrimental to the accuracy of the
solution, a reason why a two-layer wall treatment is
also applied.
The two-layer approach8 applies a modified model in
the viscous sublayer region, allowing to be
applied in meshes that could otherwise be unsuitable
for such a model. Because three common meshes are
being used rather than an optimized mesh for each
individual model, the two-layer approach is expected
to produce better results with a mesh that is otherwise
not optimized for a scheme. One drawback of
the two-layer approach in this study is the fact that, as
mentioned, more traditional schemes could be
expected to perform poorly with + < 5. The twolayer approach will likely mitigate these effects, so a
full understanding of the effects of + may not be
possible in this study.
4.3 K-Epsilon V2F Setup

The V2F variant of model solves two


additional transport equations, and is expected to
more accurately predict the effects of turbulence near
walls.9 It is to be expected that this scheme will
require more computational time, but with such
complex wall-bounded flows as this problem, the
additional time could be a solution cost worth paying.
After running several simulations with this model,
the actual difference in computational time was
significant, requiring approximately six-fold more
time to perform the same iteration count with
V2F.

Star-CCM+ has two possible wall treatments for the


V2F model: All + and Low + . The Low +
treatment is intended for situations where the mesh
resolves the viscous sublayer, and would likely be
suited for the fine and possibly even the medium
mesh. But the resolution of the coarse mesh is
insufficient for the Low + . Since all three meshes
were to be run on the identical modeling setup, the
All + was the necessary choice.

5. COMPARISON WITH EXPERIMENTAL DATA


Viewing the various flow visualizations comparing the
three turbulence models shows distinct differences in
the accuracy of the simulations. Observations from all
the figures show that and V2F produced
nearly identical results, in spite of using significantly
different modeling techniques. However, despite their
close agreement, neither nor V2F
produces results as close to the experimental data as
the Realizable scheme. Figs. 1 and 2 show that
Realizable produces a wake shape in the X-Z
plane that most closely resembles the experimental
datas profile. While and V2F show
significantly more downward motion (Fig. 2b and 2d)
than the experiment, Realizable shows very
similar characteristics at the mid-plane. A look at the
mid-plane vector plot sheds some light as to why this
difference exists.

As can be seen in Fig. 3a, the experimental data


shows a recirculation region immediately behind the
rear top edge of the cylinder, something which also
exists in the Realizable case. Also visible in
both the experiment and the Realizable case is
a distinct saddle region as described by Perry and
Chong10, although it is located slightly higher and
farther back in the Realizable . Looking at Fig.
3b and 3d, neither the recirculation at the top nor the
saddle region is visible in the and the
V2F cases.

A further inspection of Fig. 3b and 3d shows that in


the and the V2F cases the streamlines
closest to the top of the cylinder are already slightly
downturned by the time they reach the rear edge, and
continue to turn until they reach an approximately
45 approach angle with the ground. They continue
with this direction until they interact with the ground,

a)

a)

b)

b)

c)

c)

d)

d)

FIG.1 x-Velocity on X-Z Plane for a) Experimental


b) k- c) k- Real. d) k- V2F

FIG.2 z-Velocity on X-Z Plane for a) Experimental


b) k- c) k- Real. d) k- V2F

a)

Saddle Region

a)

b)
b)

c)

Saddle Region

c)

d)

FIG.3 Vector Profiles on X-Z Plane for a)


Experimental b) k- c) k- Real. d) k- V2F
then turn to a horizontal direction by about 1h behind
the rear of the cube. This strong 45-downward flow
explains the significant negative flow to the near-floor
region in Fig. 2b and 2d. Both the experimental data
and the Realizable show that the flow close to
the top of the cylinder is still upwards at the rear edge
of the cylinder, but then quickly curves downward and
becomes the recirculation zone. The next layer above
this passes over the recirculation zone, and curves
more slowly towards the ground at somewhat less than
45. But, unlike in the and the V2F cases,
the downward flow is deflected by the saddle region
and thus approaches the ground at a much lower angle
of approach. While Fig. 3b and 3d show the downward
flow interacting with the floor at ~1h, Fig. 3b and 3d
show a flow with such a shallow approach that they
have not reached the floor even at the end of the
visible region (2.5h). This difference in approach
angle is visible in other views as well.

d)

FIG.4 x-Velocity on X-Y Plane at z=0.5h for a)


Experimental b) k- c) k- Real. d) k- V2F
Viewing from above, Fig. 4 again shows the closest
simulation to be the Realizable . At 0.5h, the
flow-direction wake is nearly horizontal and passing
through the 0.5h plane all the way to the 2.5h end of the
view in both Fig. 4a and 4c. But the downward angle of
approach in the and the V2F may be seen
as a significantly shorter region of influence by the
wake in the 0.5h plane in Fig. 4b and 4d.

a)

Viewed from above, the streamlines in all four views


of Fig. 6 show twin counter-rotating regions behind
the cylinder. The flow past these regions curves first
inward then back outward in a bottleneck fashion
in both the experiment and the Realizable case.
The and V2F cases do not show this
bottlenecking, and instead continue to converge
towards the mid-plane.

a)
b)

c)

b)

d)
c)

FIG.5 y-Velocity on X-Y Plane for a) Experimental


b) k- c) k- Real. d) k- V2F
Cross-flow velocities in Fig. 5 are also very telling as
to the difference in structures generated by the three
turbulence models. Again, both the experiment and
Realizable are in close agreement. Both
produce three pairs of evenly-spaced counter-rotating
regions in the twin wake trails. By comparison,
and V2F show a single pair directly
behind the cubes (as does the experiment). But
instead of the two additional pairs of counter-rotating
confined regions, a single long region continuing
well past the viewing area are visible.

d)

FIG.6 Vector Profiles on X-Y Plane for a)


Experimental b) k- c) k- Real. d) k- V2F

One area in which the Realizable case does not


produce the best results (and in fact the only
observable structure in any manner throughout this
entire study where Realizable was not best) is
in the size and intensity of the recirculating regions in
Fig. 6. All three turbulence models demonstrate a
larger and more organized rotation region than the
experiment, with Realizable being the largest.
The flow visualization in Fig. 6 may, however, be
somewhat misleading when it comes to recirculation
strength due to the large differences in vector seeding
density by EnSight between the experimental and
CFD data.

Looking at the cylinder from the rear, Fig. 7 shows


the experimental data as having a pair of large
regions of cross-flow, with two more pairs of
counter-flowing areas below this. While all three
turbulence models show this structure to some extent,
the Realizable most closely matches the
experimental structure in size, location, and intensity.
Fig. 8 also shows that the vertical velocity profile of
Realizable most closely matches the
experimental data. The experiment shows a confined
core of downward flow at the top half of the cylinder,
while and the V2F show a core nearly
the full height of the cylinder.

a)

a)

b)

b)

c)

c)

d)

FIG.7 y-Velocity on Y-Z Plane for a) Experimental


b) k- c) k- Real. d) k- V2F

d)

FIG.8 z-Velocity on Y-Z Plane for a) Experimental


b) k- c) k- Real. d) k- V2F

10

10

0
0

50

100

150

200

-5

-10

Velocity (m/s)

15

Velocity (m/s)

15

0
0

50

100

150

200

-5

Position (mm)
Coarse Mesh X Velocity
Medium Mesh X Velocity
Fine Mesh X Velocity
Coarse Mesh Z Velocity
Medium Mesh Z Velocity
Fine Mesh Z Velocity

FIG.9 Selected Velocity Profile for k- with Three


Mesh Cases
6. MESH INDEPENDENCE
In order to examine mesh independence, all
simulations were monitored with a set of velocity
profiles in various regions of the flow path, as well as
with visual comparisons of flow structure and scalar
plots. Two samples of these velocity profiles may be
seen in Fig. 9 and 10 for and Realizable .
Due to computational time, a mesh-dependence study
was not performed on V2F.

As previously discussed, it could be expected that k would improve with an increasing resolution in
the boundary layer. With the medium mesh (y+5)
resolving to the edge of the viscous sublayer and the
fine mesh (y+1) resolving well into the viscous
sublayer, it was expected that some improvement in
accuracy would be yielded by the fine mesh. Salim
and Cheah also predicted such behavior.6 However,
Fig. 9 shows that, at least for velocity profiles, this
was not the case. As can be seen, there is no
significant difference between the medium and fine
mesh cases in velocity profiles at the selected
regions, suggesting that the scheme used in
this study reached mesh independence by y+5.
This unexpected result was also seen by Salim and
Cheah. In their study, their fine mesh (y+2) did
improve the accuracy of skin friction predictions, but

-10

Position (mm)
Coarse Mesh X Velocity
Medium Mesh X Velocity
Fine Mesh X Velocity
Coarse Mesh Z Velocity
Medium Mesh Z Velocity
Fine Mesh Z Velocity

FIG.10 Selected Velocity Profile for Realizable k-


with Three Mesh Cases
their fine mesh showed no improvements in
predicting velocity profiles compared to either their
coarse (y+32.5) or medium mesh (y+12.5).
Also as discussed, unlike , was expected
to not see improvement with a mesh resolved into the
viscous sublayer. But again, this study did not
support the initial assumptions for , at least not
with the two-layer treatment applied. Instead, the fine
mesh case produced the best results for the
Realizable , as may be seen in Fig. 10. Salim
and Cheah had similar results. In their study at the
finest mesh (y+2) Realizable , with a Standard
Wall Function (SWF), did perform the worst of any
model tested. But by adding an Enhanced Wall
Function (EWF), a two-layer treatment similar to that
used here in Star-CCM+, Salim and Cheah found that
Realizable was among the best model tested
with the fine mesh. It is likely that, had this current
study compared a Realizable without the twolayer treatment, poor results similar to Salim and
Cheah would have been seen with the fine mesh.
7. CONCLUSION
When comparing the three models used in this study,
one model has shown a clear and distinct advantage
in predicting the flow of a wall-mounted square

cylinder. In virtually every measure of comparison,


Realizable demonstrates a superior ability to
capture the mean flow of the complex structures
measured in the experimental data. Neither nor
V2F is able to predict the complex saddle
structure behind the cylinder or the trail-edge
recirculation zone at the top of the cylinder as seen in
Fig.3. Without accurately predicting these structures,
and V2F are also unable to predict the
complex pattern of counter-rotating and alternately
shedding vortices captured by the experiment.
Realizable , on the other hand, shows very good
ability in predicting these complex patterns. While
not an exact representation, the Realizable
cases are able to very closely predict the three pairs
of counter-rotating regions behind the cylinder seen
in Fig. 5.
The results of the study of any correlation between
mesh quality and turbulence modeling are not nearly
as straight-forward. The model, which is
capable of modeling flows throughout the boundary
layer, was expected to see improvements with a mesh
resolved into the boundary layer. But in the case
observed in this study, reached mesh
independence with the medium mesh despite being
resolved only to y+5, a distance at the edge of the
viscous sublayer.
To the contrary, Realizable k- did not demonstrate
mesh independence at y+5, and instead showed
further improvements all the way to y+1. This
contradicts the traditional assumption that
models perform poorly when resolved into the
viscous sublayer. In the case of this study, just as in
the literature, the likely reason for the improving
results with a viscous sublayer-refined mesh is the
application of the two-layer treatment.
This
treatment applies a different model to the
scheme in the viscous sublayer region, allowing for
much finer meshes to be used without sacrificing
accuracy.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This material is based upon work supported by the
national Science Foundation Graduate Research
Fellowship under Grant No. 0900860.
Also, the authors would also like to thank Timothy
Yen of CD-Adapco and Bill Dunn of CEI for their
assistance with this project.
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