Journal of Fluid Mechanics

Sedimentation in a dilute dispersion of spheres

G. K.  Batchelor a1
a1 Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge

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The dispersion considered consists of a large number of identical small rigid spheres with random positions which are falling through Newtonian fluid under gravity. The volume fraction of the spheres (c) is small compared with unity. The dispersion is statistically homogeneous, and the axes of reference are chosen so that the mean volume flux across any stationary surface is zero. The problem is to determine the mean value of the velocity of a sphere (U). In §3 there is described a systematic and rigorous procedure which overcomes the familiar difficulty presented by the occurrence of divergent integrals, essentially by the choice of a quantity V whose mean value can be found exactly and which has the same long-range dependence on the position of a second sphere as U so that the mean of U – V can be expressed in terms of an absolutely convergent integral. The result is that, correct to order c, the mean value of U is U0(1 – 6.55 c), where U0, is the velocity of a single sphere in unbounded fluid. The only assumption made in the calculation is that the centres of spheres in the dispersion take with equal probability all positions such that no two spheres overlap; arguments are given in support of this assumption, which is expected to be valid only when the spheres are identical. Calculations which assume a simple regular arrangement of the spheres or which adopt a cell model of the hydrodynamic interactions give the quite different result that the change in the mean speed of fall is proportional to $c^{\frac{1}{3}}$, for reasons which are made clear.

The general procedure described here is expected to be applicable to other problems concerned with the effect of particle interactions on the average properties of dispersions with small volume fraction of the particles.

(Published Online March 29 2006)
(Received August 26 1971)