Numerical simulation of turbulence and sediment transport of medium sand

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175 Scopus citations


A model of sand transport in water is produced by combining a turbulence-resolving large eddy simulation (LES) with a discrete element model (DEM) prescribing the motion of individual grains of medium sand. The momentum effect of each particle on the fluid is calculated at the LES cell containing the particle, and the fluid velocity and pressure, interpolated to each particle center, is used to derive fluid force on each particle in the DEM. Eleven numerical experiments are conducted of an initially flat bed of particles. The experiments span a range of motion, from essentially no motion to vigorous suspension. Hydraulic roughness is found to increase abruptly at the transition from bed load to suspended load transport. Suspended sediment extracts momentum from the flow and decreases the rate of shear. Whereas, slightly higher in the flow, vertical drag by suspended grains damps turbulence and increases the rate of shear. Vertical sediment diffusivity and effective particle settling velocity are much smaller than is commonly assumed in suspended sediment models. The bed load experiments suggest that saltation by itself is a poor model of bed load sand transport. In contrast to expectations from saltation models, the peak bed load flux occurs at essentially the same level as the bed, and grains move slowly in frequent contact with other grains. Higher- and faster-moving bed load grains that can be considered to be in saltation represent a smaller portion of the total flux. Entrainment of bed load grains occurs in response to fluid penetration of the bed by high-vorticity turbulence structures embedded within broader high speed fluid regions referred to as a sweeps or high-speed wedges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1240-1262
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • DEM
  • LES
  • entrainment
  • sand
  • turbulence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Geophysics


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