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2016,28(3):489-496
DOI: 10.1016/S1001-6058(16)60653-4

Theoretical analysis and numerical simulation of mechanical energy loss and
wall resistance of steady open channel flow*

Shi-he LIU (刘士和), Jiao XUE (薛娇)
School of Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, China,
E-mail: shihe3086@163.com

(Received April 16, 2015, Revised March 8, 2016)

Abstract: The mechanical energy loss and the wall resistance are very important in practical engineering. These problems are
investigated through theoretical analysis and numerical simulation in this paper. The results are as follows. (1) A new mechanical
energy equation for the total flow is obtained, and a general formula for the calculation of the mechanical energy loss is proposed. (2)
The general relationship between the wall resistance and the mechanical energy loss for the steady channel flow is obtained, the
simplified form of which for the steady uniform channel flow is in consistent with the formula used in Hydraulics deduced by π
theorem and dimensional analysis. (3) The steady channel flow over a backward facing step with a small expansion ratio is numerica-
lly simulated, and the mechanical energy loss, the wall resistance as well as the relationship between the wall resistance and the
mechanical energy loss are calculated and analyzed.

Key words: channel flow, energy equation, mechanical energy loss, resistance

Introduction and the position of the maximum velocity will be
Channel flows are gravity driven flows, with lowered if the flow depth is below 50%. The wall
viscous resistance and form resistance at the channel friction and the Manning coefficients also differ from
wall to induce mechanical energy loss when the liquid the generally estimated values as the flow depth is
flows downstream. The mechanical energy loss and reduced by 50%. Patnaik et al.[8] conducted experime-
the wall resistance are important issues in Hydraulics nts in highly sinuous trapezoidal meandering channels
and Engineering Fluid Mechanics, as well as in to investigate the effect of the aspect ratio and the
practical engineering. The wall resistance was studied sinuosity on the wall resistance under the smooth and
by experiments[1,2], numerical simulations[3,4] and theo- rigid bed condition. The percentage of the shear force
retical analyses[5,6] since the pioneering work of the on the inner wall, the outer wall and the bed were
famous German scholar, Prandtl. estimated and the experimental data were used to
Among the experimental studies, Knight and establish an equation for the percentage of the total
Sterling[1] conducted experiments to determine the wall shear force, which is more consistent and covers
distribution of the boundary shear stress, which, they a wider range of aspect ratio than available ones. The
found, was related to the shape of the secondary flow wall resistance was also studied by numerical simula-
cells while the shape of the secondary flow cells was tions. Cacqueray et al.[3] investigated the shear stress
decided by the aspect ratio. Yoon et al.[7] studied the in a smooth rectangular channel by numerical simula-
velocity distribution and the resistance coefficient with tions and it is shown that the stress associated with the
circular flume experiments. It is shown that the flow secondary flow and the shear stress on the interface
depth significantly affects the velocity distribution. could not be neglected and the provided division lines
The ratio of mean to maximum velocities will reduce match well with the existing results. Berlamont et al.[9]
studied the shear stress distribution in circular channels
by numerical simulations, focusing on the effect of the
* Biography: Shi-he LIU (1962-), Male, Ph. D., Professor aspect ratio, the velocity distribution and the wall
roughness on the stress distribution. The computatio-
nal fluid dynamics (CFD) was used to determine the
490

distribution of the bed and sidewall shear stresses in
trapezoidal channels by Ansari et al.[10] and the effects
of the slant angle of the side walls, the aspect ratio and
the composite roughness on the shear stress distribu-
tion were analyzed. The stress associated with the
secondary flow and the shear stress on the interface
are the main contributions. The distribution of the
shear stress on the boundaries is considerably influe-
nced by the variation of the slant angle and the aspect
ratio, especially for low aspect-ratio channels. Stoesser
et al.[11] calculated the turbulent flow in a meandering
channel with the steady Reynolds-averaged Navier-
Fig.1 The sketch of open channel flow
Stokes equations (RANS) code based on an isotropic
turbulence closure and the large eddy simulation (LES)
code, respectively and the results were compared with
1. Improved mechanical energy equation for steady
the previous ones. It is shown that the RANS code
channel flow
ove-predicts the size and the strength of the secondary
We consider the steady channel flow of a control
cell while the LES code is better in the secondary cell
prediction. However, the wall shear stresses obtained volume V as shown in Fig.1, with the outer bounda-
by the LES code and the RANS code agree well ries S composed of two cross-sections S1 and S2 at
though the secondary cells have a great influence on its upstream and downstream positions with a distance
the distribution of the wall shear stress. In addition, L between them, the channel wall S31 and the free
the wall resistance was studied by analytical methods. surface S32 . For the statistically steady turbulent flow
For example, Guo and Julien[12] discussed the wall
shear stress and Yang and Lim[13] discussed this paper, of homogeneous incompressible liquid of density ρ
subsequently. Khodashenas et al.[14] made a compari- in the gravitational field, the mean surface force Tij =
son among six methods for the determination of the
boundary shear stress distribution. There were a few − pδ ij + τ ij , where p and τ ij are the mean pressure
investigations of the wall mechanical energy loss. Liu and the mean viscous shear stress respectively can be
et al.[15,16] established a mechanical energy equation expressed by using the Reynolds averaged equation
for the total flow of incompressible homogeneous (Eq.(7) of this paper) as
liquid in pipes and open channels, and the expressions
for the mechanical energy loss were suggested based  ∂ui u j 
∂ (Tij ui ) ∂ ui′u ′j
on a theoretical analysis. In Ref.[16] the effect of the = Tij sij + ρ ui  − fi +  (1)
aspect ratio and the Reynolds number on the mechani- ∂x j  ∂x j ∂x j 
 
cal energy loss in open channels was studied numeri-
cally, and it is shown that in a laminar flow, the
where ui , sij and fi are the mean velocity, the rate
coefficient of the mechanical energy loss decreases
with the increase of the aspect ratio and the Reynolds of the mean deformation and the unit mass force,
number, yet in a turbulent flow, this coefficient tends respectively. We have
to be independent of the aspect ratios as long as the
Reynolds number is large enough. Nevertheless, the ∂
− ρ ui fi = [ ρ ui ( g x3 cos θ − g x1 sin θ )] (2a)
mechanical energy defined in Ref.[16] includes the ∂xi
mean turbulent kinetic energy, which is difficult to
determine in practical engineering now and the rela-
tionship between the wall resistance and the mechani- Tij sij = τ ij sij (2b)
cal energy loss is not available.
Thence in this paper the investigations are focu-
∂ui u j ∂ 1 
sed on the following points: (1) A new mechanical ρ ui =  ρ ui u j u j  (2c)
energy equation for the total flow is proposed by defi- ∂x j ∂xi  2 
ning the mechanical energy as the sum of the potential
energy of gravity, the potential energy of surface force Therefore, Eq.(1) can be simplified further as
and the mean kinetic energy. (2) The general relation-
ship between the wall resistance and the mechanical 
∂  ps 1 
energy loss in open channel flows is analyzed, and  ρ ui  g x3 cos θ − g x1 sin θ + + u j u j  =
further discussed for the steady uniform flow and the ∂xi   ρ 2 
steady flow over a backward-facing step.
491

∂  ps 2 p 
− (2 µ sij − ρ ui′u ′j ) sij + [− ( p − ps )ui + ρ gQ  z2 + − z1 − s1  (5a)
∂xi  ρg ρg 

(2 µ sij − ρ ui′u ′j )u j ] (3) where Q is the flow discharge, z is the vertical
distance between the special point on the cross section
In Eqs.(2) and (3), µ is the dynamical viscosity of the and the base level, i.e., the horizontal level and ps is
liquid, θ is the angle between x1 axis and the hori- the static pressure at that point. The indexes 1 and 2
are used to represent the corresponding quantities on
zontal plane, − ρ ui′u ′j is the Reynolds stress, and g the cross sections S1 and S2 , respectively. Using A
is the gravity acceleration. It should be noticed that and U to represent the area and the mean velocity of
the mean pressure p is not always equal to the static the cross-section, and defining the kinetic energy
pressure ps in the turbulent flow field due to seco- correction coefficients α1 and α 2 such that
ndary flows and the anisotropic turbulent diffusion.
The boundary conditions for the steady channel
1 1 = α1QU1 = − ∫∫ ui u j ui n j d A ,
α1 AU 3 2

flow are: on the channel wall S31 the mean velocity S1

is zero, which is the so called no-slip condition, on the
free surface S32 , where x3 = η , the kinematic boun- α 2 A2U 23 = α 2 QU 22 = ∫∫ ui u j ui n j d A
dary condition is ui η ni = 0 , where ni is the unit S2

vector in the outward direction of the normal line on
We have
S32 , the dynamical boundary conditions mean that
there exist no shear stresses and the normal stress is
just the atmospheric pressure. The above dynamical ∫∫ ρ u u u

S
i j j ni d A = ρ Q (α 2U 22 − α1U12 ) (5b)
boundary conditions on the free surface are reasonable
in the case that the relative velocity between the liquid Therefore if we further define
and the air is not so large and the effect of the surface
tension can be neglected. ρ gQhw = ∫∫∫ (2 µ sij − ρ ui′u ′j ) sij dV (5c)
Integrating Eq.(3) over the control volume, by V
transforming the volume integral into the surface inte-
gral using the Gaussian Theorem, we have ρ gQhms = ∫∫ [( p − ps )ui − (2 m sij − ρ ui′u ′j )u j ]ni d A (5d)
S
 ps 1 
∫∫S  g x3 cosθ − g x1 sin θ + ρ + 2 u j u j  ⋅
 Equation (4) can be simplified as

ps1 α U2 p α U2
( ρ ui ni )d A = − ∫∫∫ (2 µ sij − ρ ui′u ′j ) sij dV + z1 + + hms1 + 1 1 = z2 + s 2 + hms 2 + 2 2 + hw
V ρg 2g ρg 2g
(6)
∫∫ [−( p − p )u

S
s i + (2 µ sij − ρ ui′u ′j )u j ]ni d A (4)
where hms is the potential energy deviation resulted
from the different surface forces in the static liquid
Now let us consider the integral terms in Eq.(4). and the moving liquid on the cross section, and it is
Since for a static pressure field, g x3 cos θ − called the surface force potential energy deviation
g x1 sin θ + ps / ρ = g z + ps / ρ is always equal to a hereafter. hw represents the mechanical energy loss
constant on any cross-section, therefore by using the for unit weight liquid in unit time while the liquid
boundary conditions on the wall and on the free surfa- flows from the cross section S1 to the cross section
ce, as well as the continuity equation Q = ∫∫ ui ni d A = S2 . It can be seen from Eq.(5c) and Eq.(6) that the
S2
mechanical energy loss is always positive, i.e., the
− ∫∫ ui ni d A , we obtain liquid would flow from the position of high mechani-
S1 cal energy to the position of low mechanical energy if
the mechanical energy for unit weight liquid in unit
 ps  time at the cross section is defined as z + ps / ρ g +
∫∫  g x

S
3 cos θ − g x1 sin θ +
ρ 
 ( ρ ui ni )d A =
hms + α U 2 / 2 g .
492

2. Formulation of the momentum equation for cous resistance, respectively, their directions are agai-
steady channel flow nst the flow direction, and P1 and P2 are the mean
The Reynolds averaged equation for the steady
pressure on the cross sections S1 and S2 . The mass
channel flow is
force in the direction l1 in the gravitational field is
∂ ( ρ ui u j ) ∂p ∂
= ρ fi − + (τ ij − ρ ui′u ′j ) (7)
∂x j ∂xi ∂x j ∫∫∫ ρ f l dV = ρV f l
V
i i i i = ρ V g sin θ (9e)

Integrating Eq.(7) over the control volume V , tran- Substituting Eq.(9) into Eq.(8), we obtain the
sforming the volume integral into the surface integral relationship between the total resistance on the cha-
using the Gaussian Theorem and projecting the inte- nnel wall Fb1 + Fb 2 and the mechanical energy loss,
gral result in the direction of li , we have
hw as

∫∫ ρ u u l n dA = ∫∫∫ ρ f l dV − 

S
i j i j ∫∫ pl n d A + V
i i
S
i i
Fb1 + Fb 2 =
ρ gV
hw + ∑ Gm
4
(10)
L m =1

∫∫ (τ

S
ij − ρ ui′u ′j )li n j d A (8)
The wall resistance and the mechanical energy
loss are both the characteristics of the total flow in
Euation (8) is the general form of the momentum open channels, and there surely exists a certain rela-
equation for the total flow, and in this paper, only its tionship between them since the liquid flow is harmo-
nious. This relationship is given in Eq.(10), where on
longitudinal component (i.e., let i = 1 and l1 = (1, 0, 0) ) 4
is discussed. By defining the angles between the out- the right hand side, ∑G m are the resultant force of
ward directions of the normal line on S1 and S2 and m =1

the mean pressure, the momentum variation, the resis-
the horizontal plane as θ1 and θ 2 , and introducing the tance caused by the mechanical energy variation and
no-slip boundary condition on the channel wall and the variation of the mean shear stress including the
the kinematic boundary condition on the free surface, viscous shear stress and the Reynolds stress, respecti-
we have vely.

∫∫ ρ u u l n dA = ∫∫ ρ u u l n dA + ∫∫ ρ u u l n dA =

S
i j i j
S2
i j i j
S1
i j i j
3. Wall resistance for steady uniform channel flow
If the shape of the cross section of the open
α 2′ QU 2 cos(θ − θ 2 ) − α1′QU1 cos(θ − θ1 ) (9a) channel does not change along the longitudinal dire-
ction and the channel is straight and long enough, the
flow in it will be steady and uniform. In this case we
∫∫ (− ρ u′u′ )l n d A = ∫∫ (− ρ u′u′ )l n d A +

S
i j i j
S2
i j i j have for Eq.(10): Fb1 = 0 , Fb 2 = τ 0 A0 , A0 = χ L ,
V = AL and G1 = G2 = G3 = G4 = 0 , where χ , A0
and τ 0 are the wetted perimeter, the bed area and the
∫∫ (− ρ u′u′ )l n d A
i j i j (9b)
S1 wetted perimeter averaged shear stress, hereafter refe-
rred to as the mean shear stress, respectively. Under
this condition, the mean shear stress of the steady
∫∫ pli ni dA = − Fb1 − P2 A2 cos(θ2 − θ ) + P1 A1 cos(θ1 − θ )
−
S uniform flow in open channels is simplified as
(9c)
A hw
τ0 = ρ g (11)
∫∫ τ ij li n j dA

=
S
∫∫τ
S2
ij il n j d A + ∫∫ τ ij li n j d A − Fb 2
S1
(9d) χ L

Substituting Eq.(5c) into Eq.(11), and defining
In Eq.(9), α1′ and α 2′ are the corresponding mome- the coefficient of the mechanical energy loss λ as
ntum correction coefficients, Fb1 = ∫∫ pli ni d A and
S31 8R
Fb 2 = − ∫∫ τ ij li n j d A are the form resistance and the vis-
λ=
ρ AU 3 ∫∫ (2 µ s
S
ij − ρ ui′u ′j ) sij d A (12)

S31
493

where R is the hydraulic radius. Equation (11) can where the subscripts i, j = 1, 2 . The RSM model[17] is
be simplified as adopted to calculate the Reynolds stress in Eq.(16),
the wall boundary condition is handled by the standa-
λ rd wall functions, and the rigid-lid hypothesis is used
τ0 = ρU 2 (13)
8 to deal with the free surface.
The governing equations are discretized by the
Equation (13) expresses the relationship between
finite volume method (FVM). The coupling relation-
the mean shear stress and the mean velocity in the
ship between the mean pressure and the mean velocity
section for the steady uniform channel flow. This
is handled with the SIMPLE scheme based on the
formula is widely used in Hydraulics, which is dedu-
collocated variable arrangement. A third-order accura-
ced based on π theorem and dimensional analysis.
cy QUICK scheme is used for the convection term
However, in this paper, it is obtained directly from the while the central difference scheme is used for the
governing equations of Fluid Mechanics. Defining the diffusion term. The algebraic equations are solved by
wall resistance coefficient for the steady uniform cha- the Gauss-Seidel iteration method in this paper.
nnel flow as c f , according to the definition we have
4.2 Verification
1 The experimental results[18] are used for verifica-
τ 0 = c f ρU 2 (14)
2 tion. The experiment was conducted in a wind tunnel.
A flat plate is put into the wind tunnel as shown in
Comparing Eq.(13) with Eq.(14), we obtain that Fig.3. The velocity over the flat plate is measured with
λ = 4c f , i.e., the coefficient of the mechanical energy the pulsed-wire anemometer, which is used to verify
loss is three times larger than the wall resistance coe- the numerical model. The computed results are well
fficient for the steady uniform channel flow. consistent with the measured ones as shown in Fig.4,
which shows that the calculated results from the
numerical model can be further used to estimate the
4. Estimation of mechanical energy loss and wall mechanical energy loss and other quantities.
resistance for steady backward-facing step flow
A sketch of the backward-facing step flow is
shown in Fig.2, where ∆ is the height of the step, H
is the water depth of the downstream uniform flow,
and the expansion ratio ∆ / H is used to represent the
step change. In view of the scope, only the 2-D back-
ward-facing step flow with expansion ratio less than
5% is considered. Under this condition, the free surfa-
ce would not be influenced by the step.

Fig.3 The experimental facility[18]

Fig.2 Sketch of the backward-facing step flow

4.1 Mathematical model and numerical calculation
method
The governing equations for the mean velocity
ui and the mean pressure p are as follows:
Fig.4 The verification results of the velocity distribution
∂ui
=0 (15)
∂xi 4.3 Estimation of mechanical energy loss and wall
resistance
∂ui u j 1 ∂p ∂ 2 ui ∂
= fi − +ν − (ui′u ′j ) (16) 4.3.1 Simulation conditions
∂x j ρ ∂xi ∂x j ∂x j ∂x j In the simulation, the calculation cases are as
494

follows. The flow Reynolds number ReH = U H /ν
varies between 4 × 104 and 9 × 104 , and the expansion
ratio ∆ / H varies between 0.02 and 0.05. Under these
conditions, the Froude numbers of all cases are less
than 1, which shows that the flow is the subcritical
flow in all calculation cases. The cross section S1 is
in the upstream of the step with a distance of 200-500
times of the step height while the cross section S2 is
in the downstream of the step with a distance of 200-
500 times of the step height in order to make sure that
the flow in these two sections is uniform.

Fig.5 Variation of the mechanical energy loss with the Reynolds
numbers and the expansion ratios Fig.7 Variations of portion of surface force potential energy
deviation in the mechanical energy excluding the gravi-
tational potential energy

4.3.2 Mechanical energy loss and surface force pote-
ntial energy deviation of total flow
The mechanical energy loss hw between the
cross sections S1 and S2 is calculated based on the
simulation results and Eq.(5c) and is shown in Fig.5.
The surface force potential energy deviations of the
total flow hms1 on the cross section S1 and hms 2 on
the cross section S2 are also calculated based on the
simulation results and Eq.(5d) and are shown in Fig.6
and Fig.7. As can be seen from these figures that: (1)
the mechanical energy loss is considerably larger than
the surface force potential energy deviation under the
given conditions, and the mechanical energy loss
increases with the increase of the Reynolds numbers
and the expansion ratios, (2) the surface force pote-
ntial energy deviation increases with the increase of
the Reynolds number and decreases with the increase
of the expansion ratio, and (3) the portion of the surfa-
ce force potential energy deviation in the mechanical
energy excluding the gravitational potential energy is
very small, and can be ignored in this condition.
Fig.6 Variations of the surface force potential energy deviation
4.3.3 Wall resistance
between static liquid and moving liquid with the
Reynolds numbers and the expansion ratios The wall resistance between the cross sections S1
495

and S2 includes the form resistance and the viscous 4
in Fig.9. As can be seen from Fig.9 that L ∑ Gm /
resistance, calculated from the simulation results, and m =1
the variations of the resistance forces against the ρ gHV remains constant as the Reynolds number
Reynolds numbers and the expansion ratios are shown
changes for the given expansion ratio, and increases
in Fig.8. As can be seen from Fig.8 that: (1) the
linearly with the increase of the expansion ratio.
viscous resistance is much smaller than the form resi-
stance under given conditions, (2) the viscous resista-
nce increases with the increase of the Reynolds number
and decreases with the increase of the expansion ratio,
(3) the form resistance decreases with the increase of
the Reynolds number, and increases with the increase
of the expansion ratio.

4
Fig.9 Variation of L ∑ Gm / ρ gHV against the Reynolds
m =1

numbers and the expansion ratios

5. Conclusions
The mechanical energy loss and the wall resista-
nce are investigated through theoretical analysis and
numerical simulation in this paper. The following con-
clusions are drawn for the steady flow in open channe-
ls.
(1) A new mechanical energy equation for the
total flow is obtained by defining the mechanical
energy as the sum of the potential energy of gravity,
the potential energy of surface force and the mean
kinetic energy as in Hydraulics. The formula for the
mechanical energy loss of the total flow is derived
exactly while in Hydraulics it is determined empirica-
lly or experimentally.
Fig.8 Variations of resistance forces with the Reynolds numbe- (2) The general relationship between the wall
rs and the expansion ratios resistance and the mechanical energy loss for steady
channel flows is obtained by theoretical analysis, the
4.3.4 The relationship between wall resistance and simplified form of which for the steady uniform cha-
mechanical energy loss of total flow nnel flow is in consistent with the formula used in
Equation (10) shows that the wall resistance of Hydraulics deduced by π theorem and dimensional
the total flow between the cross sections S1 and S2 is analysis.
(3) The steady channel flow over a backward
approximately proportional to the mechanical energy
facing step with a small expansion ratio is numerically
loss. By converting Eq.(10) to its dimensionless form,
simulated, and the mechanical energy loss, the wall
we have
resistance as well as the relationship between the wall
4 resistance and the mechanical energy loss are calcula-
L ∑ Gm ted and analyzed based on the simulation results.
L hw
( Fb1 + Fb 2 ) = + m =1 (17)
ρ gHV H ρ gHV
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