In free-surface flows the turbulence in the liquid may be sufficient to disturb the surface to the point of entraining air into the flow. This process is important, for example, in water treatment where air is needed to sustain microorganisms for water purification and in rivers and streams for sustaining a healthy fish population. Air entrainment is typically engineered into spillways downstream of hydropower plants to reduce the possibility of cavitation damage at the base of the spillway. Other situations where air entrainment is undesirable are in the sprue and runner systems used by metal casters, and in the filling of liquid containers used for consumer products.
The importance of being able to predict the amount and distribution of entrained air at a free liquid surface has led to the development of a unique model that can be easily inserted into FLOW-3D® as a user customization. The model has two options. One option, to be used when the volume fraction of entrained air is relatively low, uses a scalar variable to record the air volume fraction. This model is passive in that it does not alter the dynamics of the flow.
A second air-entrainment model, option two, is based on a variable density formulation. This model includes the “bulking” of fluid volume by the addition of air and the buoyancy effects associated with entrained air. However, this dynamically coupled model cannot be used in connection with heat transport and natural (thermal) convection.
In both model options the same basic entrainment process is used that is based on a competition between the stabilizing forces of gravity and surface tension and the destabilizing effects of surface turbulence. The model is described in the next section. Because turbulence is the main cause of entrainment, a turbulence-transport model must be used in connection with the air-entrainment model (i.e., ifvis=3 or 4). It is recommended that the RNG version of the more traditional k-epsilon turbulence model be employed. All the validation tests reported in this Technical Note were performed using the RNG turbulence model.