On the bidirectional vortex and other similarity solutions in spherical coordinates

  • Joseph Majdalani
  • Sjoerd W. Rienstra


The bidirectional vortex refers to the bipolar, coaxial swirling motion that can be triggered, for example, in cyclone separators and some liquid rocket engines with tangential aft-end injectors. In this study, we present an exact solution to describe the corresponding bulk motion in spherical coordinates. To do so, we examine both linear and nonlinear solutions of the momentum and vorticity transport equations in spherical coordinates. The assumption will be that of steady, incompressible, inviscid, rotational, and axisymmetric flow. We further relate the vorticity to some power of the stream function. At the outset, three possible types of similarity solutions are shown to fulfill the momentum equation. While the first type is incapable of satisfying the conditions for the bidirectional vortex, it can be used to accommodate other physical settings such as Hill’s vortex. This case is illustrated in the context of inviscid flow over a sphere. The second leads to a closed-form analytical expression that satisfies the boundary conditions for the bidirectional vortex in a straight cylinder. The third type is more general and provides multiple solutions. The spherical bidirectional vortex is derived using separation of variables and the method of variation of parameters. The three-pronged analysis presented here increases our repertoire of general mean flow solutions that rarely appear in spherical geometry. It is hoped that these special forms will permit extending the current approach to other complex fluid motions that are easier to capture using spherical coordinates.

Mathematics Subject Classification (2000).

35D05 35J05 35J60 76B47 76M23 


Vortex flow cyclone nonlinear PDE multiple solutions 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Jack D. Whitfield Professor of High Speed Flows, Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical EngineeringUniversity of Tennessee Space InstituteTullahomaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Mathematics and Computing ScienceEindhoven University of TechnologyEindhovenNetherlands

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