Using DEM-CFD method at colloidal scale
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The aim of this work is to look into the applicability of Discrete Element Modelling (DEM) coupled to Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to simulate micro-scale colloidal particles immersed in fluid. Numerical methods were implemented through the commercial framework of EDEM2.3. As opposed to dissolved matter, which behaves as a continuum within the fluid medium, particulate matter is made of discrete entities that interact amongst themselves, and with the fluid and any physical boundaries. Particulate matter is ubiquitous in many purification processes that would beneficiate from having an easy way to model particle dynamics immersed in water. In an effort to understand better the dynamics of particle deposition under surface forces and hydraulic forces, a micro-scale numerical model was built adopting both a mechanistic and a statistical approach to represent the forces involved in colloidal suspension. The primary aim of the model was to simulate particle aggregation, deposition and cluster re-suspension in real world micro-systems. Case studies include colloidal flocculation in a constricted tube, and colloidal fouling around membrane filtration feed spacers. This work used a DEM-CFD coupling method that combined the DEM particle flow simulation with hydrodynamics forces from a velocity field computed through CFD. It also implemented boundary-particle and particle-particle interactions by enabling the modelling of surface and interfacial forces. Two kinds of coupling method were considered: two-way and one-way coupling. Two-way coupling is suitable for high particle concentration flow where particle loading affects the hydrodynamics. One-way coupling is suitable for dispersed particle configuration where the flow field is assumed to be undisturbed by the particles. The advantages and drawbacks of both techniques for micron-size particles were investigated. EDEM 2.3 was customised with plug-ins to implement Van der Waals forces and Brownian forces and its post-processing features offered the ability to investigate easily the microparticles behaviour under the influence of fluid forces. In this context, DEM-CFD modelling using EDEM 2.3 represents an improvement on previously published works as it enables higher visibility and reproducibility along with increasing the number of potential users of such modelling. Emphasis was given in presenting original findings and validation results that illustrate DEMCFD applicability, with respect to modelling of hydraulically mediated colloidal surface interaction; while highlighting factors that limit the ability of the technique. For instance, the effect of particle disturbance on the surrounding medium currently proves difficult to model.