We describe an experimental setup aimed at studying turbulent-induced droplet collisions in a laboratory setting. Our goal is to reproduce conditions relevant to warm-rain formation in clouds. In these conditions, the trajectories of small inertial droplets are strongly influenced by the background air turbulence, and collisions can potentially explain the droplet growth rates and spectrum broadening observed in this type of clouds. Warm-rain formation is currently under strong scrutiny because it is an important source of uncertainty in atmospheric models. A grid at the entrance of a horizontal wind tunnel produces homogeneous isotropic turbulence at a Re λ in the range of 400–500. Water droplets are injected from the nodes of the turbulence-inducing grid at a volume fraction (ϕ) of 2.7 × 10−5 and with sizes of 10–200 μm. A complex manifold-injection system was developed to obtain uniform water droplet seeding, in terms of both water content and size distribution. We characterize the resulting droplet-laden turbulent flow, and the statistics of droplet pairs are measured and analyzed. We found that the radial distribution function (RDF), a measure of preferential concentration of droplets that plays a key role in collision kernel models, has a large peak at distances below the Kolmogorov microscale of the turbulence. At very long separations, comparable with the integral length scale of the turbulence, these RDFs show a slow decay to the average probability given by the mean droplet number density. Consistent with this result, conditional analysis shows an increased local concentration of droplets within the inertial length scale (≈ 10–100 Kolmogorov lengths). These results are in good agreement with previous experiments that found clustering of inertial droplets with St ≈ 1 at scales on the order of 10η. Ultimately, our results support the hypothesis that turbulence-induced preferential concentration and enhanced settling can lead to significant increases in the collision probability for inertial droplets in the range 10–50 μm.
Experiments in Fluids – Springer Journals
Published: Jan 13, 2012
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