Direct Simulations of Suspensions of Long Slender Filaments
Anna-Karin Tornberg and Michael Shelley



Long slender filaments or fibers suspended in fluids are fundamental to understanding many flows arising in physics, biology and engineering. Examples include fiber-reinforced composites, the dynamics and rheology of biological polymers and the motility of microscopic organisms.

Such filaments often have aspect ratios of length to radius ranging from a few hundred to several thousand. Full discretizations of such thin objects in a 3D domain is very costly. By applying a non-local slender body theory, an integral equation along the filament centerline, relating the force exerted on the body to the filament velocity, is obtained. The equation is asymptotically accurate to , where the slenderness parameter is the ratio between the radius and the length of the filament.

An equation for the field velocity in any point away from the filament is also obtained, to the same accuracy in . Using this formula, and the linearity of the Stokes equation, the contributions from all other filaments can be added to the equation for one single filament. We obtain a set of equations for the time evolution of all the filament coordinate functions, that describes the fully coupled problem, i.e. it contains both the fluid-filament interactions as well as the filament-filament interactions, as mediated by the fluid.

The filaments we are considering are inextensible and elastic. Replacing the force in the integral equation by an explicit expression based on the shape of the filament, using Euler-Bernoulli elasticity, yields a time-dependent integral equation for the motion of the filament centerline. This equation will include the filament tension, for which an equation can be derived by using the condition of inextensibility of the filament. The evolution of the system therefore, in each time step, requires the solution of an auxiliary integro-differential equation for the filament tension.

The resulting time-dependent equation suffers from an instability at small, unphysical length scales. The numerical method is therefore based on a modified integral equation that removes this instability.

In our numerical algorithm, the filament centerlines are parameterized by arclength, and discretized uniformly. All derivatives are computed using second-order divided differences. Special quadrature rules have been developed to compute the necessary integrals. A second-order time-stepping scheme is used, with implicit treatment of high derivatives. A product integration method is applied to evaluate the integrals in the integral operators.

We place our filaments in a shear flow. In the non-dimensionalized equations, there are two physical parameters. One is , the radius over length ratio, and the other one is , which relates the characteristic fluid drag to the filament elasticity.

If one single straight filament is inserted in a plane shear flow at some angle to the x-axis, it will simply rotate around its center of mass. If we introduce a small perturbation to the filament, so that it is not exactly straight, there are two possible scenarios. Either, this perturbation will disappear with time, and the filament will stay straight. However, if the filament is under compression for some time, and if the value of is large enough, then a so called buckling occurs. As we increase , this buckling becomes more pronounced.

We present short animations that show the fundamentals for this buckling, for , for three different values of and . In these animations, the filament has been colored with the line tension. The line tension changes from negative to positive, as the filament goes from being under compression to being under extension. We can note that if the initial configuration x is reflected to -x, it will evolve under the symmetry . Hence, if we change the sign of the perturbation, the filament will buckle in the other direction.


Each movie is approx. 700KBytes

Next animation is one of 15 interacting filaments, inserted into a oscillating background shear flow,. We impose periodic boundary conditions in the streamwise (x) direction. The animation shows one period in time.


Movie is approx. 2Mbytes

The parameters areand . We use N=100 points to discretize each filament, and a time step =0.0128.


When the filaments buckle, they store elastic energy, that will later be released back to the system. In the figure we plot total elastic energy plotted versus time t. The period for the oscillating shear flow is 25.6, and the dashed lines marks each half period, i.e. the points in time when the background flow changes direction.

Interesting phenomena to study for suspensions are filament orientation, suspension viscosity as a function of volume fraction and flexibility of the fibers, and normal stress differences. Already for one single filament in the plane, we find that as it buckles, integrated over a full rotation, it yields a positive first normal stress, which is not the case if buckling does not occur. The anti-symmetric configuration yields identical normal stresses, and hence there is no configuration that can yield a negative normal stress contribution, cancelling that positive contribution.