Mitrano P. P., Zenk J. R., Benyahia S., Galvin J. E., Dahl S. R., Hrenya C. M. Kinetic-theory predictions of clustering instabilities in granular flows: beyond the small-Knudsen-number regime. Journal of Fluid Mechanics. 2014 Jan;738. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/jfm.2013.602 .
Abstract: In this work we quantitatively assess, via instabilities, a Navier-Stokes-order (small-Knudsen-number) continuum model based on the kinetic theory analogy and applied to inelastic spheres in a homogeneous cooling system. Dissipative collisions are known to give rise to instabilities, namely velocity vortices and particle clusters, for sufficiently large domains. We compare predictions for the critical length scales required for particle clustering obtained from transient simulations using the continuum model with molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. The agreement between continuum simulations and MD simulations is excellent, particularly given the presence of well-developed velocity vortices at the onset of clustering. More specifically, spatial mapping of the local velocity-field Knudsen numbers (Knu) at the time of cluster detection reveals Knu>>1 due to the presence of large velocity gradients associated with vortices. Although kinetic-theory-based continuum models are based on a small-Kn (i.e. small-gradient) assumption, our findings suggest that, similar to molecular gases, Navier-Stokes-order (small-Kn) theories are surprisingly accurate outside their expected range of validity.
Keywords: granular media; kinetic theory; nonlinear instability