A holistic framework for hybrid modelling of solid-liquid flows

Lead Research Organisation: STFC - Laboratories
Department Name: Scientific Computing Department


The movement of solid-liquid suspensions in pipes and vessels is a generic complex problem which is commercially challenging and technically important. Industrial applications are numerous, e.g. chemicals, consumer goods, food, pharmaceuticals, oil, mining, river engineering, construction, power generation, biotechnology and biomedical. Despite such large markets, industrial practice and processes are neither efficient nor optimal because of a severe lack of fundamental understanding of these flows. Such flows involve complex phenomena on a wide range of scales as flow conduits generally vary from the micron scale to the centimetre scale, and vessels vary from the millilitre scale to the cubic metre scale. Flows may be turbulent or viscous and the carrier fluid may exhibit complex non-Newtonian rheology. Particles occur in various shapes, sizes, densities, bulk and surface properties which exacerbates the complexity of the problem.

The design of processes for conveying or processing solid-liquid suspensions requires information about particle behaviour such as particle trajectory, radial migration across streamlines, particle velocity distribution, and solids distribution. There are, however, huge practical difficulties in imaging solid-liquid flows and measuring local fluid and solid velocities, since little of the available instrumentation is applicable. Mixtures of practical interest are often concentrated and opaque so that flow visualisation is impossible, and particles may be deformable, breakable or prone to aggregation. Such complex phenomena are presently difficult to predict. They have hampered fundamental research and the development of rigorous holistic modelling strategies and, as a result, work has generally followed a piecemeal empirical approach.

This proposal will use a multiscale approach to study the flow of solid-liquid suspensions including fluids of complex non-Newtonian rheology and particles with complex properties: (i) experimentally via a unique and accurate Lagrangian technique of positron emission particle tracking, which can measure local 3-D phase velocities as well as phase distribution in opaque systems; and (ii) by developing and validating novel modelling approaches to predict such flows including detailed interactions between particles, fluid and walls. A number of advanced modelling techniques will be used including principally the Discrete Element Method (DEM), Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), Smooth Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH), Lattice Boltzmann Method (LBM) and Coarse-Grained Molecular Dynamics (CGMD).

None of these methodologies on its own, however, is able to effectively model these complex flows as they all enjoy strengths as well as weaknesses. We will, therefore, exploit the strengths of each technique by assembling these methods in an efficient hybrid fashion to produce an integrated multiscale modular framework to be made available free of charge within the unique and well-known open source code DL_MESO. Thus, we will evaluate the best hybrid approaches and develop a paradigm for modelling these complex flows by mapping the model hybrids against flow characteristics.

The use of a hybrid modelling methodology and a multiscale approach to include concentrated turbulent flows, fluids of non-Newtonian rheology, particles of complex shapes and properties will produce a quantum leap advance in the modelling of these complex flows. In the medium to long-term, the findings from this work should improve the competitiveness of the UK solid-liquid processing technologies. Our industrial and academic partners, however, will be able to draw immediate benefits through engagement with the project.


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Description Grant
Amount £513,863 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P022243/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2017 
End 08/2020