Experiments in Fluids

, Volume 50, Issue 6, pp 1559–1570 | Cite as

An automated single-particle tracker: application to characterization of non-azimuthal motion in Couette flows at low Reynolds number

  • O. Blaj
  • P. Merzeau
  • P. Snabre
  • B. Pouligny
Research Article


We describe an experiment that allows us to record 3-dimensional trajectories of single particles in Couette shear flows, at low Reynolds number. The core of the apparatus is a Couette cell with transparent contra-rotating cylinders. Fluorescent spherical particles are used as tracers. A single tracer is imaged onto a webcam, equipped with a home-made autofocus system. For a given average shear rate, tracking of an individual tracer is performed automatically by driving the amount of contra-rotation between both cylinders and the position of the webcam. The performance of the tracker is illustrated through examples of trajectories of neutrally buoyant tracers in a Newtonian fluid. The setup is mostly aimed at characterizing complex flows in non-colloidal concentrated suspensions and wet granular materials. We show examples of 3d trajectories in a dense suspension of 200 μm spherical grains, revealing details of the short-scale diffusive-like particle motion, together with flow localization and large-scale non-azimuthal flow patterns.


PMMA Shear Zone Couette Flow Outer Cylinder Servo System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was supported by Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Région Aquitaine through grant # 20091101007. We are grateful to CRPP Instrumentation and Mechanics group for their technical help, to F. Nadal for illuminating discussions on the physics of rotating fluids, and to B. Berge (Varioptic) for bringing our attention to the CD/DVD auto-focus system.

Supplementary material

348_2010_1013_MOESM1_ESM.mpg (3 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (MPG 3107 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre de recherche Paul-PascalCNRS, University of BordeauxPessacFrance

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