Acta Mechanica

, Volume 224, Issue 12, pp 3091–3109 | Cite as

A novel Quaternion integration approach for describing the behaviour of non-spherical particles

  • F. Zhao
  • B. G. M. van Wachem
Open Access


There are three main frameworks to describe the orientation and rotation of non-spherical particles: Euler angles, rotation matrices and unit Quaternions. Of these methods, the latter seems the most attractive for describing the behaviour of non-spherical particles. However, there are a number of drawbacks when using unit Quaternions: the necessity of applying rotation matrices in conjunction to facilitate the transformation from body space to world space, and the algorithm integrating the Quaternion should inherently conserve the length of the Quaternion. Both drawbacks are addressed in this paper. The present paper derives a new framework to transform vectors and tensors by unit Quaternions, and the requirement of explicitly using rotation matrices is removed altogether. This means that the algorithm derived in this paper can describe the rotation of a non-spherical particle with four parameters only. Moreover, this paper introduces a novel corrector-predictor method to integrate unit Quaternions, which inherently conserves the length of the Quaternion. The novel framework and method are compared to a number of other methods put forward in the literature. All the integration methods are discussed, scrutinised and compared to each other by comparing the results of four test cases, involving a single falling particle, nine falling and interacting particles, a 2D prescribed torque on a sphere and a 3D prescribed torque on a non-spherical particle. Moreover, a convergence study is presented, comparing the rate of convergence of the various methods. All the test cases show a significant improvement of the new framework put forward in this paper over existing algorithms. Moreover, the new method requires less computational memory and fewer operations, due to the complete omission of the rotation matrix in the algorithm.


Rotation Matrix Euler Angle Time Level Euler Method Rotation Operator 
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.


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Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and the source are credited.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Thermofluids, Department of Mechanical EngineeringImperial College LondonLondonUK

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