EGU22-13031, updated on 28 Mar 2022
EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Orientation of anisotropic particles in stratified turbulent flows

Alessandro Sozza and Alain Pumir
Alessandro Sozza and Alain Pumir
  • Laboratoire de Physique, École normale supérieure de Lyon, Université de Lyon, Lyon, France

Small-scale turbulence and density stratification are two major ingredients shaping the life of marine micro-organisms in the pycnocline. Such tiny particles are rarely spherical, ranging from flat disks to elongated rods. Particle orientation with respect to the flow or to density gradients plays a crucial role in many aspects of phytoplankton's life, e.g. light harvesting for photosynthesis, enhancement of nutrient uptake, optimal navigation and vertical migration. However, it's still unclear how anisotropic particles align in a turbulent pycnocline and how they are able to cope with density stratification.

In the present work, we aim to characterize the effects of stratification on the orientation of inertialess non-spherical particles. To achieve this purpose, we performed direct numerical simulations of a mixed Eulerian-Lagrangian model. The flow is described by the Boussinesq equations, which evolve fluid velocity and density fluctuations in a triply periodic cubic domain. The space is initially seeded with spheroidal particles of different shapes (from rods to disks) transported by the flow as passive tracers. Particle orientation evolves in response to velocity gradients according to Jeffery’s dynamics.

We have explored different configurations of the parameters' space by changing particle shape, density stratification and turbulence intensity. The statistical properties of orientation are then unveiled by characterizing the particles' distributions and their mean behavior. Moreover, we have inspected the alignment of particles with respect to the flow and to the iso-density surfaces. We have analyzed rotation rates of the particles and compared our results with the case of spherical particles and homogeneous isotropic turbulence. Such outcomes provide a clear picture of the influence of stratification on the orientational dynamics and on its transition from non-stratified to strongly stratified turbulence. Finally, we conclude by discussing the implications of our results for oceanic applications.

How to cite: Sozza, A. and Pumir, A.: Orientation of anisotropic particles in stratified turbulent flows, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-13031,, 2022.