The dam-break problem for concentrated suspensions of neutrally buoyant particles
This paper addresses the dam-break problem for particle suspensions, that is, the flow of a finite volume of suspension released suddenly down an inclined flume. We were concerned with concentrated suspensions made up of neutrally-buoyant non-colloidal particles within a Newtonian fluid. Experiments were conducted over wide ranges of slope, concentration, and mass. The major contributions of our experimental study are the simultaneous measurement of local flow properties far from the sidewalls (velocity profile and, with lower accuracy, particle concentration) and macroscopic features (front position, flow depth profile). To that end, the refractive index of the fluid was adapted to closely match that of the particles, enabling data acquisition up to particle volume fractions of 60%. Particle migration resulted in the blunting of the velocity profile, in contrast to the parabolic profile observed in homogeneous Newtonian fluids. The experimental results were compared with predictions from lubrication theory and particle migration theory. For solids fractions as large as 45%, the flow behaviour did not differ much from that of a homogeneous Newtonian fluid. More specifically, we observed that the velocity profiles were closely approximated by a parabolic form and there was little evidence of particle migration throughout the depth. For particle concentrations in the 52%–56% range, the flow depth and front position were fairly well predicted by lubrication theory, but taking a closer look at the velocity profiles revealed that particle migration had noticeable effects on the shape of the velocity profile (blunting), but had little impact on its strength, which explained why lubrication theory performed well. Particle migration theories (such as the shear-induced diffusion model) successfully captured the slow evolution of the velocity profiles. For particle concentrations in excess of 56%, the macroscopic flow features were grossly predicted by lubrication theory (to within 20% for the flow depth, 50% for the front position). The flows seemed to reach a steady state, i.e., the shape of the velocity profile showed little time dependence.