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Large-eddy Simulation of Incompressible Flow

Around a Sphere with Trip Wire

at Re = 50 000

M. Torlak *, G. Jensen, and I. Hadzic *

TU Hamburg-Harburg, AB Fluiddynamik und Schiffstheorie, Ldmmersieth 90,

D-22305 Hamburg, Germany
* present address of the first and the third author:
CD adapco Group, Diirrenhofstr. 4, D-90402 Niirnberg, Germany

Summary, fn this work the large-eddy simulation (LES) is used to investigate in-
compressible flow around a sphere with trip wire. The sphere is located in a channel
with square cross-section, and the bulk Reynolds number is Re = 50 000. The com-
putational effort implied by demands for sufficient spatial and temporal resolution
of the flow structures requires parallel runs on a high-performance computer. The
numerical results are compared to the experimental ones in order to provide reliable
data for testing, calibrating and improvement of statistical turbulence models. The
time-averaged LES-results and the measured data obtained by the laser-Doppler-
anemometry (LDA) for the velocity and the Reynolds-stress components are in
reasonable agreement. Accuracy of the predicted mean-flow velocity component is
particularly good. Comparison of the Reynolds stresses shows certain deviations in
the far wake, agreement is however acceptable from the qualitative point of view.

1 Introduction
Statistical turbulence models - those used to close the Reynolds-averaged
Navier-Stokes (RANS) equations which are commonly used in scientific and
engineering practice - suffer from severe deficiencies in the computation of
flows with transition and separation. They fail in the prediction of the drag
force and the wake structure. Appropriate assessment of applicability of these
models and their eventual improvement require reliable information not only
on integral values such as drag force but also d a t a on the velocity field and
the Reynolds-stress field in the entire flow, particularly in the wake.
T h e lack of d a t a on the velocity and the Reynolds-stress field in the wake
behind a sphere at high i?e-numbers motivated a series of investigations at
our department, including b o t h experimental and numerical work. Essential
190 M. Torlak, G. Jensen, I. Hadzic

aim of these studies is to offer d a t a on velocity and Reynolds-stress field in

the wake. A sphere is characterised by simple geometry, but at the same
time, by complex, separated turbulent flow for practically relevant Reynolds
numbers. Transition appears either in the shear layer or in the boundary layer.
The separation point is not fixed owing to the absence of sharp edges. Thus,
analysis of fiow around a sphere is quite suitable for testing of turbulence
Results of experimental studies with visualisations as well as drag and
pressure measurements for a range of different i?e-numbers, and LDA-
measurements for flows around a smooth sphere and a sphere with trip wire
at Re = 50 000 are given in [2]. An assessment of performance of the RANS-
simulations of the flow around a smooth sphere at Re = 50 000 is briefly
reported in [4]. The models tested: the Launder-Sharma k — e model, the
Menter SST k — uj model, and a Reynolds-stress model [5] delivered prin-
cipally bad representation of the flow p a t t e r n in the wake. In addition, the
predicted drag force (with an error up to 50%) and the turbulence quantities
(both the maximum of turbulence intensity and its location) were adversely
affected. Similar conclusions were drawn in [6] where the high-i?e version of
the k — e model and the k — uj model are tested. In [8] DNS to the flow around
a sphere at i?e = 5 000 is successfully applied. In [7] and [6] LES is used for
computation of the flow around a sphere at Re = 50 000. Another LES of
the same kind of flow is experimentally conflrmed by hot-wire and LDA mea-
surements [4]. In [6] it is shown t h a t modelling of subgrid-scale stress (SGS)
does not play an important role on sufficiently fine grids.
The use of DNS and LES seems to be promising in investigation of transi-
tional flows with separation. In this work, the study is concentrated on a flow
around a sphere with trip wire at Re = 50 000. The investigations are con-
ducted using LES. Unlike in the cases studied in the previously cited works,
the trip wire triggers transition to turbulence in the boundary layer which
considerably changes the flow structure. A flow p a t t e r n similar to t h a t of su-
percritical flow is obtained. For comparison of results, the LDA-measurements
from [2] are used.

2 Numerical m e t h o d
The starting point of LES is flltering the governing equations over a length
scale. For Newtonian fluids, a modified form of the Navier-Stokes equations
for incompressible fiow extended for the t e r m of the SGS-stress tensor is


dU, dUjU, _ _d_

dt dxj dxj ^^ \ dxj dx,
LES of Flow Around a Sphere with Trip Wire at Re = 50 000 191

where Ui are the filtered (large-scale) velocity components, P is the filtered

pressure, p and /i are the density and the dynamic viscosity of the fluid, rf^^
is the subgrid-scale stress tensor which is not resolved on the large scale.
Therefore it has to be modelled.
In the present study, the Smagorinsky model [9] is used to close the system
of eqs. (l)-(2). The SGS stress tensor is replaced by the following expression:

r^GS = _ 2 / , s 5 i , - + i r f G % , f,s = pCs A^ ,/2S~S~ (3)

where Sij = {dUi/dxj + dUj/dxi)/2 is the deformation rate, Cs is the so-

called Smagorinsky constant, and A = ] / ^ / ^ is the adopted filter width with
V being the volume of the control volume under consideration. T h e value of
Cs = 0.065 was used here. The contributions of the Leonard stress and the
cross stress to the SGS-stress were neglected.
T h e computations were done using the computer program Comet [1]. T h e
program is based on a finite-volume method [3]. It allows the use of unstruc-
tured grids with local refinement, with arbitrary shape of polyhedral control
volumes and collocated variable arrangement. Dependent variables are de-
fined at the centres of the control volumes. T h e S I M P L E algorithm is used
for pressure-velocity coupling. A discretisation practice of the second order is
employed: midpoint rule for approximation of integrals, central-differencing
scheme (CDS) for approximation of gradients, and linear interpolation. This
choice offers an appropriate trade-off between accuracy and costs of imple-
mentation for handling of arbitrary geometries and unstructured grids. For
the purpose of this study, capabilites of the program were extended in order
to account for the LES. T h e CDS was used for evaluation of the convective
flux in the bulk of the flow, combined with the upwind-differencing scheme
(UDS) applied in the regions far from the sphere and from the wake. This
is found to be a good compromise which delivers sufficient accuracy in the
regions of the most interest and avoids oscillations in the solution. Integra-
tion in time is done using the implicit three-time-level scheme which is also
second-order accurate.
Segregated solution algorithm is employed to form a set of systems of
linear algebraic equations established for each dependent variable: the large-
scale velocities, Ui^ and the so-called modified pressure, P = P + r^^^^/3. T h e
systems of equations are handled sequentially until prescribed convergence
tolerance is achieved. T h e system matrices are: quadratic with dimensions
N X N where N is the number of CVs, sparse containing Nj -\- 1 entries in
each row with Nj being the number of neighbouring CVs, unstructured with
an arbitrary bandwidth, and diagonally dominant. The systems are solved by
a preconditioned I C C G - m e t h o d for symmetric matrices and the B i C G S t a b
algorithm for asymmetric ones. The program is parallelised adopting a single
program multiple d a t a (SPMD) model. T h e domain decomposition approach
is used for parallelisation in space. Parallel processing in time is available as
well, but not used here. T h e communication between the processing units
192 M. Torlak, G. Jensen, I. Hadzic

takes place either through the Message Passing Interface (MPI) hbrary or
ParaUel Virtual Machine (PVM).

3 Problem description
The accompanying experiments were conducted in a closed wind tunnel
with square cross-section. T h e dimensions of the test section are 300 m m x
300 m m x 600 mm. The geometry of the sphere with position of the trip wire
and the dimensions is depicted in Fig. 1 (left). T h e sphere was placed at the
centre of the tunnel, and fixed by a supporting bar from its rear side, in the
wake. Thus, influence of the sphere support onto the development of the flow
was retained as small as possible.

trip wire

Fig. 1. Geometry of the sphere with trip wire and dimensions in mm (left). A part
of the solution domain with only a quarter being shown (right)

An appropriate geometrical model was needed to simulate the flow in the

experimental set-up as accurate as possible. T h e conflnement of the chan-
nel and the sphere support were taken into account, as shown in Fig. 1
(right). T h e boundary conditions in the simulation accommodate those from
the experiment. T h e no-slip condition is applied over the sphere wall and
along the supporting bar. T h e channel walls are however treated as the slip
walls. At the inlet boundary, the uniformly distributed velocity constant in
time is specified. Zero gradient of all dependent variables is imposed at the
The computations were performed on locally refined, unstructured grids,
as shown in Fig. 2. Local refinement allows better resolution of the fiow
properties in critical regions: boundary layer, shear layer and wake, avoiding
rapid increase of the total number of CVs. Two grids were employed: with
app. 8 - 1 0 ^ and 3.1 • 10^ CVs. Tests with the coarse grid gave poor results,
with the length of recirculating zone about 50% less t h a n observed in the
experiments. T h e results presented here are obtained on the fine grid. T h e
normalised wall distance of the computational points nearest to the wall, 7/+,
was less t h a n 2 in the stagnation region and in front of the trip wire; it was
less t h a n 0.5 behind the trip wire and in the recirculation region until x = D
measured from the sphere centre. Around the sphere equator, y~^ had a local
LES of Flow Around a Sphere with Trip Wire at Re = 50 000 193

Fig. 2. Longitudinal section of the computational grid around the sphere with trip
wire. Only upper part is shown. The grid consists of about 3.1 • 10^ CVs. Two levels
of local refinement — around the sphere and in the wake (left), and additional
refinement in the area of expected separation (right) can be clearly seen

maximum of about 0.75, and it was about 1.5 along the wall of the support
bar for x > 1.3D.
T h e time step size was At ^ 0.005D/Uo- T h e time averaging of the flow
properties (velocity, pressure, Reynolds-stress) started after SOD/Uo- T h e
subsequent averaging time in the simulation was taver ~ l^OD/Uo-

4 Computational aspects
The computational runs for the grid with about 3.1 • 10^ CVs were per-
formed parallel in space, using 64 processing units on the computer Cray
T 3 E . After automatic partitioning of the solution domain, about 47000 com-
putational points were assigned to a processing unit. Finer partitioning would
increase time overheads in the communication between the processing units.
The achieved load balancing was:

99.9% (4)
where Np is the total number of computational points in the overall solution
domain, A^pu is the number of processing units, and Np is the maximum
number of computational points per processing unit. Here, Np also represents
dimension of the matrix of systems of equations to be solved. Several other
values used in the computational set-up which indicate consumption of the
computing resources are given in Tab. 1.

5 Results
In Fig. 3, the instantaneous fields of the mean-flow velocity component (left)
and the pressure (right) are shown. The turbulent boundary layer separates
194 M. Torlak, G. Jensen, I. Hadzic

Table 1. Computational set-up parameters and the resulting computing effort per
time step
start of the time averaging after 16 000 time steps
averaging period 30 000 time steps
number of averaging samples 30 000 (for each time step)
time step size 2.5- 10-^ s
convergence tolerance for outer iterations 10-^
maximum number of outer iterations required per 9
time step
computing time per time step about 65 s

from the rear side of the sphere, and is directed towards the mean-flow axis of
the channel. In the wake, whose width approximately equals the sphere diam-
eter, local velocity and pressure variations indicate a strongly turbulent flow
structure. The oscillatory n a t u r e of the velocity iso-lines, seen in front of the
trip wire, was triggered by the non-orthogonal grid along the non-matching
faces which are introduced by the local refinement. An instantaneous shot
from the fiow visualisation [2] is shown in Fig. 4. The instantaneous veloc-
ity vectors in the vicinity of the trip-wire are presented in Fig. 5. Laminar
boundary layer separates from the frontal side of the wire. Small vortices
which are generated behind the wire and trigger transition to turbulence in
the boundary layer are clearly seen.

Fig. 3. The iso-lines of the mean-flow velocity component Ux (left) and the pressure
(right) at an instant of time

Fig. 4. Visualisation of the flow around a sphere with

' trip wire at Re = 50 000, ref. [2]

Fig. 6 (left) shows the time- and circumferentially averaged pressure dis-
tribution. A profile of the averaged pressure coefficient Cp along
a meridian of the sphere is depicted in Fig. 6 (right). In the region in front of
LES of Flow Around a Sphere with Trip Wire at Re = 50 000 195

Fig. 5. Velocity vectors around the trip wire at an instant of time

LES, Re=50.000
invisicid fluid,
smooth sphere
90 120 150

Fig. 6. Spatial distribution of the time- and circumferentially averaged pressure

coefficient Cp = ^ ^ ^ "o around the sphere (left) and its profile along a meridian of
^ 0.5PUQ
the sphere (right)

the trip wire, the pressure variation is similar to the one for flow around the
smooth sphere. Certain increase of the pressure in front of the trip wire and
a severe pressure drop behind it are noticeable. T h e variation of Cp is actually
continuous across the wire, and the pressure j u m p noticeable in the diagram
is due to distribution of interpolating points employed in the post-processing
stage. Interestingly, distribution of Cp does not show the minimum value at
a distinct value of the meridional angle (p. Instead, minimum of Cp extends
over a short range of (/?, indicating flat distribution of Cp behind the trip
wire. Shortly before the equator, about (/? = 85° measured from the frontal
stagnation point, the adverse pressure gradient arises, which is strong until
about 100°. Further, Cp increases and approaches zero in the vicinity of the
supporting bar while remaining negative. Slight local maximum of Cp around
170° is addressed to the effects induced by the supporting bar.
In Fig. 7, the time-averaged velocity vectors obtained from LES (left) are
compared to the time-averaged velocities obtained by LDA-measurements
(right). The vectors are constructed using the mean-flow component, Ux, and
radial component, Ur- A qualitatively good agreement of the global flow pat-
tern is observed in the simulation. Approximately at 105° measured from the
frontal stagnation point, flow separation is observed. The main flow stream
re-attached the support behind the sphere, bounding a recirculation area
about 0.95D long. Based on the LDA-measurements [2] the separation point
was visually estimated at the angle of 120° and the length of recirculation
196 M. Torlak, G. Jensen, I. Hadzic

area of about ID. T h e raster of the samphng points in the measurements was
too coarse near the sphere wah, so t h a t the very thin layer of backward flow
in the range between 105° and 120° could not be recorded.
A detailed quantitative comparison of the mean-flow velocity component
is shown in Fig. 8 (above). Agreement of the results in the vicinity of the
sphere and the near wake is very good. Deviations from the measured val-
ues are noticeable in the upper part of the far wake, for x/D > 1, where


Fig. 7. The time-averaged velocity in the wake of the sphere: LES results (left)
and LDA measurements (right)


0.5 1 1.5
x/D + 0.25 (U/U^)

0 0.5 1 1.5 2
x/D + sqrtiujjJ/U^

Fig. 8. Profiles of the normalised mean-flow velocity component UX/UQ (above) and
normalised Reynolds stress \/UXUX/UQ (below): LES results (lines) and measured
values (symbols)
LES of Flow Around a Sphere with Trip Wire at Re = 50 000 197

the magnitude of Ux component is shghtly underestimated by LES. Sim-

ilar findings hold for the averaged Reynolds stress UxUx whereby LES re-
sulted in an overestimation, Fig. 8 (below). Discrepancies are more apparent
t h a n in the case of mean-flow velocity component. It is believed t h a t dis-
agreements of numerical and experimental results observed in the far wake
are to be addressed to insufficient resolution by the employed computa-
tional grid.
Fourrier-analysis of the velocity and pressure time history for two typical
points - near the trip wire and in the far wake - is presented in Fig. 9. It
indicates transition from a state with distinct high-frequency fluctuations,
shortly behind the trip-wire, to a wide spectrum of excited frequencies in
the wake. T h e lowest distinct frequency detected in the sphere wall vicinity,
behind the trip wire, corresponds to Strouhal number St = 7.28. At the point
in the far wake, there is no dominant frequencies, and a wide spectrum of
frequencies is obtained. Fig. 9 (right). The most dominant ones lie in a range
about St = 5.

10 f


Q. 10't


10 10
16' log St

Fig. 9. Fourrier transformation of the velocity (red) and pressure (blue) time his-
tories at a point immediately behind the trip wire (left) and a point in the far wake

T h e invariants of the anisotropy tensor are calculated from the time-

averaged LES results. D a t a presented in Fig. 10 is obtained for a number
of points along the profile lines, shown in Fig. 8, as well as for a number of
points in the range 0.5D < r < 0.65D and 0 < (p < 180°. T h e anisotropy
invariant m a p indicates t h a t most states including isotropic, axisymmetric
and two-component turbulence can be found in the flow around the sphere,
contrary to the most flows used to calibrate RANS models in which typically
only a small range is covered. This illustration shows t h a t the adopted test
case is suitable for testing of turbulence models.
Finally, a comparison of the computed and measured time-averaged global
flow properties b o t h for the smooth and the sphere with trip wire is sum-
marised in Tab. 2. Note t h a t the predicted value of the drag coefficient for
198 M. Torlak, G. Jensen, I. Hadzic

Fig. 10. The invariant map of the anisotropy tensor for the flow around the sphere
with trip wire at Re = 50 000

Table 2. Global flow properties obtained after time averaging: (*) numerical results
from [6], (o) numerical results from [4], (o) experimental results from [2], and (•)
present numerical results

smooth sph ere sphere with trip wire

length of the recirculating area l.bD 1.261) l.bD 0.951) ID
position of the separation point 84° 84^ 82° 105° 120°
drag coefficient 0.465 0.557 0.51 0.249 —

the sphere with the trip wire is clearly less t h a n for the smooth sphere. This
finding is in accordance with experience. Unfortunately, measured values of
the drag force for the case investigated here are not available for a more
precise verification.
The flow around sphere with trip wire is substantially different t h a n for
smooth sphere. Locations of maxima and minima b o t h in the velocity and
the Reynolds-stress field, as well as their intensities differ [2]. Principally, the
flow structure is predicted by LES b o t h qualitatively and quantitatively well.
While quantitative discrepancies between the computed and measured values
of the Reynolds-stress in the far wake are observed in the present simulation,
comparison with the numerical results from [6] for smooth sphere shows t h a t
LES has predicted all changes in the right direction and also largely with the
right magnitude.

6 Conclusions
In this paper, it is shown t h a t LES captures all phenomena of separated flow
around a sphere with transition to turbulence. Prediction of the flow around
LES of Flow Around a Sphere with Trip Wire at Re = 50 000 199

a sphere using LES is much better t h a n with RANS-models, which may give
quahtatively wrong results for this type of flow, particularly drag force and
turbulence quantities.
Since LES is too expensive for every-day simulations, the RANS-models
still have to be used in engineering practice. Therefore, they need to be
assessed in detail by performing a term-by-term analysis. T h e LES results
can be used to validate new RANS-models or the ideas for improvement
of existing ones, since - contrary to experimental work - LES delivers all
necessary information for assessment of modelling assumptions. T h e accom-
panying experiments provide sufficient d a t a to confirm quality of the LES
Further LES has to be performed on the finer grids, in order to examine
still noticeable deviations from experimental data. W i t h this validated LES
d a t a a term-by-term analysis of RANS turbulence models can be performed
in order to identify their deficiencies. Also, URANS and DES can be assessed
against the d a t a obtained from the LES simulation.

T h e financial support provided by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
within the project grant No. P E 350/15-2 is gratefully acknowledged. It is
also the authors' pleasure to t h a n k Dr. Milovan Peric, CD adapco Group,
for many helpful discussions. The computations were performed using the
program Comet on the computer Cray T 3 E of Hochstleistungsrechenzentrum
(HLRS) S t u t t g a r t , Germany.

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