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Spectral characterisation of inertial particle clustering in turbulence


Clustering of inertial particles is important for many types of astrophysical and geophysical turbulence, but it has been studied predominately for incompressible flows. Here, we study compressible flows and compare clustering in both compressively (irrotationally) and vortically (solenoidally) forced turbulence. Vortically and compressively forced flows are driven stochastically either by solenoidal waves or by circular expansion waves, respectively. For compressively forced flows, the power spectrum of the density of inertial particles is a useful tool for displaying particle clustering relative to the fluid density enhancement. Power spectra are shown to be particularly sensitive for studying large-scale particle clustering, while conventional tools such as radial distribution functions are more suitable for studying small-scale clustering. Our primary finding is that particle clustering through shock interaction is particularly prominent in turbulence driven by spherical expansion waves. It manifests itself through a double-peaked distribution of spectral power as a function of Stokes number. The two peaks are associated with two distinct clustering mechanisms; shock interaction for smaller Stokes numbers and the centrifugal sling effect for larger values. The clustering of inertial particles is associated with the formation of caustics. Such caustics can only be captured in the Lagrangian description, which allows us to assess the relative importance of caustics in vortically and compressively forced turbulence. We show that the statistical noise resulting from the limited number of particles in the Lagrangian description can be removed from the particle power spectra, allowing us a more detailed comparison of the residual spectra. We focus on the Epstein drag law relevant for rarefied gases, but show that our findings apply also to the usual Stokes drag.


Academic article





  • SINTEF Energy Research / Termisk energi
  • Luleå University of Technology
  • Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics
  • Stockholm University



Published in

Journal of Fluid Mechanics




Cambridge University Press



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