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An experimental investigation of negative wakes behind spheres settling in a shear-thinning viscoelastic fluid


We present detailed experimental results examining “negative wakes” behind spheres settling along the centerline of a tube containing a viscoelastic aqueous polyacrylamide solution. Negative wakes are found for all Deborah numbers (2.43≤De(˙γ)≤8.75) and sphere-to-tube aspect ratios (0.060≤a/R≤0.396) examined. The wake structures are investigated using laser-Doppler velocimetry (LDV) to examine the centerline fluid velocity around the sphere and digital particle image velocimetry (DPIV) for full-field velocity profiles. For a fixed aspect ratio, the magnitude of the most negative velocity, U min , in the wake is seen to increase with increasing De. Additionally, as the Deborah number becomes larger, the location of this minimum velocity shifts farther downstream. When normalized with the sphere radius and the steady state velocity of the sphere, the axial velocity profiles become self-similar to the point of the minimum velocity. Beyond this point, the wake structure varies weakly with aspect ratio and De, and it extends more than 20 radii downstream. Inertial effects at high Reynolds numbers are observed to shift the entire negative wake farther downstream. Using DPIV to investigate the transient kinematic response of the fluid to the initial acceleration of the sphere from rest, it is seen that the wake develops from the nonlinear fluid response at large strains. Measurements of the transient uniaxial extensional viscosity of this weakly strain-hardening fluid using a filament stretching rheometer show that the existence of a negative wake is consistent with theoretical arguments based on the opposing roles of extensional stresses and shearing stresses in the wake of the sphere.

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Received: 10 November 1997 Accepted: 1 May 1998

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Arigo, M., McKinley, G. An experimental investigation of negative wakes behind spheres settling in a shear-thinning viscoelastic fluid. Rheol. Acta 37, 307–327 (1998).

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  • Key words Sphere
  • negative wake
  • viscoelastic
  • shear-thinning
  • strain-hardening