The three-dimensional structure of swirl-switching in bent pipe flow

Lorenz Hufnagel, Jacopo Canton, Ramis Örlü, Oana Marin, Elia Merzari, Philipp Schlatter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Swirl-switching is a low-frequency oscillatory phenomenon which affects the Dean vortices in bent pipes and may cause fatigue in piping systems. Despite thirty years worth of research, the mechanism that causes these oscillations and the frequencies that characterise them remain unclear. Here we show that a three-dimensional wave-like structure is responsible for the low-frequency switching of the dominant Dean vortex. The present study, performed via direct numerical simulation, focuses on the turbulent flow through a pipe bend preceded and followed by straight pipe segments. A pipe with curvature 0.3 (defined as ratio between pipe radius and bend radius) is studied for a bulk Reynolds number , corresponding to a friction Reynolds number . Synthetic turbulence is generated at the inflow section and used instead of the classical recycling method in order to avoid the interference between recycling and swirl-switching frequencies. The flow field is analysed by three-dimensional proper orthogonal decomposition (POD) which for the first time allows the identification of the source of swirl-switching: a wave-like structure that originates in the pipe bend. Contrary to some previous studies, the flow in the upstream pipe does not show any direct influence on the swirl-switching modes. Our analysis further shows that a three-dimensional characterisation of the modes is crucial to understand the mechanism, and that reconstructions based on two-dimensional POD modes are incomplete.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86-101
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
StatePublished - Jan 25 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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