Environmental Fluid Mechanics
Ciencias de la Tierra
At the smallest scales of sediment transport in rivers, the coherent structures of the turbulent boundary layer constitute the fundamental mechanisms of bedload transport, locally increasing the instantaneous hydrodynamic forces acting on sediment particles, and mobilizing them downstream. Near the critical threshold for initiating sediment motion, the interactions of the particles with these unsteady coherent structures and with other sediment grains, produce localized transport events with brief episodes of collective motion occurring due to the near-bed velocity fluctuations. Simulations of these flows pose a significant challenge for numerical models aimed at capturing the physical processes and complex non-linear interactions that generate highly intermittent and self-similar bedload transport fluxes. In this investigation we carry out direct numerical simulations of the flow in a rectangular flat-bed channel, at a Reynolds number equal to Re = 3632, coupled with the discrete element method to simulate the dynamics of spherical particles near the bed. We perform two-way coupled Lagrangian simulations of 48,510 sediment particles, with 4851 fixed particles to account for bed roughness. Our simulations consider a total of eight different values of the non-dimensional Shields parameter to study the evolution of transport statistics. From the trajectory and velocity of each sediment particle, we compute the changes in the probability distribution functions of velocities, bed activity, and jump lengths as the Shields number increases. For the lower shear stresses, the intermittency of the global bedload transport flux is described by computing the singularity or multifr actal spectrum of transport, which also characterizes the widespread range of transport event magnitudes. These findings can help to identify the mechanisms of sediment transport at the particle scale. The statistical analysis can also be used as an ingredient to develop larger, upscaled models for predicting mean transport rates, considering the variability of entrainment and deposition that characterizes the transport near the threshold of motion.