Cluster formation and self-assembly in stratified fluids: a novel mechanism for particulate aggregation

Richard McLaughlin
UNC, Chapel HIll
Thursday, March 5, 2020 - 3:35pm to 4:35pm
Vincent Hall 16

The experimental and mathematical study of the motion of bodies immersed in fluids with variable concentration fields (e.g. temperature or salinity) is a problem of great interest in many applications, including delivery of chemicals in laminar micro-channels, or in the distribution
of matter in the ocean. In this lecture we present some recent experimental and mathematical advances we have made for several such problems. First, we review results on how the shape of a tube can be used to sculpt the profile of chemical delivery in pressure driven laminar shear flows. Then, we explore recent results for the behavior of matter trapped vertically in a variable density water column. For this second problem, we experimentally observe and mathematically model a new attractive mechanism we have found in our laboratory by which particles suspended within stratification may self-assemble and form large aggregates without need for short range binding effects (adhesion). This phenomenon arises through a complex interplay involving solute diffusion, impermeable boundaries, and the geometry of the aggregate, which produces toroidal flows. We show that these flows yield attractive horizontal forces between particles. We experimentally observe that many particles demonstrate a collective motion revealing a system which self-assembles, appearing to solve jigsaw-like puzzles on its way to organizing into a large scale disc-like shape, with the effective force increasing as the collective disc radius grows. We overview our modeling and simulation campaign towards understanding this intriguing dynamics,
which may play an important role in the formation of particle clusters in lakes and oceans.