Nonlinear dynamics of viscoelastic Taylor-Couette flow: Effect of elasticity on pattern selection, molecular conformation and drag

D. G. Thomas, B. Khomami, R. Sureshkumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Three-dimensional and time-dependent simulations of viscoelastic Taylor-Couette flow of dilute polymer solutions are performed using a fully implicit parallel spectral time-splitting algorithm to discover flow patterns with various spatio-temporal symmetries, namely rotating standing waves (RSWs), disordered oscillations (DOs) and solitary vortex structures referred to as oscillatory strips (OSs) and diwhirls (DWs). A detailed account of the impact of flow transitions on molecular conformation and viscoelastic stress, velocity profiles, hydrodynamic drag force and energy spectra of time-dependent flow states is presented. Overall, predicted pattern selection and flow features compare very favourably with experimental observations. For elasticity number E, that signifies the ratio of elastic to viscous forces, >0.1, and when the shear rate (cylinder rotation speed) is increased above the linear stability threshold, the circular Couette flow (CCF) becomes unstable to RSWs which are characterized by a checkerboard-like pattern in the space-time plot of radial velocity, implying symmetry between inflow/outflow (I/O) regions. As the shear rate is further increased, perturbations that break the I/O symmetry are amplified leading to DOs and/or flame-like patterns with spectral mechanical energy transfer reminiscent of elastically induced low-Reynolds-number turbulence. However, when the shear rate is decreased from those at which such chaotic states are observed, the radially inward acting polymer body force created by flow-induced molecular stretching causes the development of narrow inflow regions surrounded by much broader weak outflow domains. This promotes the formation of solitary vortex structures, which can be stationary and axisymmetric (DWs) or time-dependent (OSs). The dynamics of the formation of these structures by merging and coalescence of vortex pairs and the implication of such events on instantaneous hydrodynamic force are studied. For O(1) values of E, OSs and DWs appear approximately at constant values of the We, defined as the ratio of polymer relaxation time to the inverse shear rate in the gap. As shear rate is decreased further, DWs decay to CCF although at We values less than the linear stability threshold. The flow transitions are hysteretic with respect to We, as evidenced by a plot of drag force versus We.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-382
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics


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