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You are on page 1of 5

a whole academic industry around itpeople have worried for a very

long time how to calculate settling velocity, and how to do it

accurately. This is not entirely silly; all granulometry devices that

measure settling velocity as a proxy for grain size (read settling

tubes) require a precise knowledge of the settling velocity of spheres,

for example. Settling velocity will become a primary input for bedload

transport studies, as well.

surprising that many, many people have taken a crack at solving this

problem for once and for all. It seems so deceptively simple

consider sediment to be spherical, and balance the weight of the

sphere pulling it down against the friction of water rushing past the

sphere holding it up. How hard can this be?

Well, the first part is not hard. The weight of a sphere is just the mass

times the acceleration of gravity, and the mass is just the volume

times the density. SO,

D 3

Fg = ( s f )g

6

So our only problem is what holds the sphere back. The first

formulation of this was by Stokes in 1851. The force he felt held back

the sphere was the viscous resistance of the fluid on the surface of

the sphere. This is related to the surface area of the sphere, the

viscosity of the fluid, and the velocity of the fluid.

FD = 3Dv

To get settling velocity, just balance the two forces, and solve for v!

D 3

( s f ) = 3Dv

6

1 ( s f ) 2

v=w= g D

18

Ok, this is fine so long as viscous forces are the only ones slowing

the sphere. HOWEVER, theres another force to concern ourselves

withthe impact of water striking the sphere. Picture an extreme

example. You are a particle. You are sprayed with a firehose. Are you

being pushed backwards by viscosity, or by impact of water? You

guessed itriot police dont use firehoses because they spray really

viscous water. So, we need a formula that handles the impact of all

those little particles of water on our sphere. Consider a sphere being

supported on a fountain of water:

If every particle of water strikes the sphere dead on, and fully

discharges its momentum into the sphere, then the impact is related

to the mass of water per unit time that strikes the sphere and the

velocity. In math:

Fi = D2 f v2

4

2 ( s f )

v=w= g D

3 f

Ok, theres two problems with this. One, we cant combine these two

formulae yet. Two, we assumed that the particles of water all

released all their momentum to the sphere, and we know for a fact

that they dontthe particles along the perimeter, for example, barely

graze the sphere, so why are they giving any momentum at all?

The solution to the first problem is easy. Rubey first thought this one

upthe force balancing the weight of the sphere is the combination

of the impact and the friction! Hey, who knew? Thus:

D 3 ( s f )g = 3Dv + D 2 v 2

6 4

and

g f ( s f )D 3 + 36 2 6

2

3

v=w=

fD

Ok, for our second problem. We need some way of talking about how

water imparts momentum to the sphere (and wouldnt it be nice if we

could generalize this to things other than spheres?). One solution is

to create a general force of drag, and make it account for both impact

and viscous drag. Such a formulation would look a lot like the impact

formulayoud need the projected area, the fluid density, and the

velocity:

1

FD = C D Av 2

2

the only addition is this drag coefficient, thats supposed to talk about

how important viscosity is, and to handle how water strikes the object

(note that CD is unitless). So, all we need is some way to talk about

how water strikes an object, and how important viscosity is in all this.

came up with a graph that defines how drag coefficient changes with

changes in relative velocity. Here it is:

settling velocity and the length scale is particle diameter and not flow

depth. This Reynolds number does basically the same thing as

beforeit tells us when flow around an object is laminar (and

therefore friction dominated), and when flow is turbulent (and

therefore impact dominated). Heres a chart that explains something

about how flow behaves around a sphere for different particle

Reynolds numbers:

CD behaves as a function of R, whereas for relative large R, CD

becomes constant at about 0.5. This is neatCD shows the

dominance of friction at low R, and the dominance of impact at high

R. It also shows something called the drag crisis that happens to

spheres at very high R. Here, the particle boundary Reynolds number

becomes turbulent, and the drag on the sphere suddenly drops.

that only has this one nasty in it.

4 1 s f

v=w= gD

3 CD

f

general form than true impact law.

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