Experimental investigation of horizontal air–water bubbly-to-plug and bubbly-to-slug transition flows in a 3.81 cm ID pipe

Ran Kong, Seungjin Kim, Stephen Bajorek, Kirk Tien, Chris Hoxie

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    42 Scopus citations


    The present study seeks to investigate horizontal bubbly-to-plug and bubbly-to-slug transition flows. The two-phase flow structures and transition mechanisms in these transition flows are studied based on experimental database established using the local four-sensor conductivity probe in a 3.81 cm inner diameter pipe. While slug flow needs to be distinguished from plug flow due to the presence of large number of small bubbles (and thus, large interfacial area concentration), both differences and similarities are observed in the evolution of interfacial structures in bubbly-to-plug and bubbly-to-slug transitions. The bubbly-to-plug transition is studied by decreasing the liquid flow rate at a fixed gas flow rate. It is found that as the liquid flow rate is lowered, bubbles pack near the top wall of the pipe due to the diminished role of turbulent mixing. As the flow rate is lowered further, bubbles begin to coalesce and form the large bubbles characteristic of plug flow. Bubble size increases while bubble velocity decreases as liquid flow rate decreases, and the profile of the bubble velocity changes its shape due to the changing interfacial structure. The bubbly-to-slug transition is investigated by increasing the gas flow rate at a fixed liquid flow rate. In this transition, gas phase becomes more uniformly distributed throughout the cross-section due to the formation of large bubbles and the increasing bubble-induced turbulence. The size of small bubbles decreases while bubble velocity increases as gas flow rate increases. The distributions of bubble size and bubble velocity become more symmetric in this transition. While differences are observed in these two transitions, similarities are also noticed. As bubbly-to-plug or bubbly-to-slug transition occurs, the formation of large elongated bubbles is observed not in the uppermost region of bubble layer, but in a lower region. At the beginning of transitions, relative differences in phase velocities near the top of the pipe cross-section to those near the pipe center become larger for both gas and liquid phases, because more densely packed bubbles introduce more resistance to both phases.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)137-155
    Number of pages19
    JournalInternational Journal of Multiphase Flow
    StatePublished - 2017

    All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

    • Mechanical Engineering
    • General Physics and Astronomy
    • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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