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Dynamics of sediment-laden plumes in the ocean

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Woods, AW 


jats:pWe present a series of experiments to illustrate the dynamics of positively or negatively buoyant particle-laden plumes in a cross-flow, with relevance for the discharge of sediment into the ocean during deep-sea mining operations. In an unstratified ambient fluid, our experiments identify three different regimes, corresponding to (i) a dense particle-laden plume, host to relatively dense saline fluid, in which the particles separate from the descending plume as the flow speed falls below the particle settling speed; (ii) a dense particle-laden plume, host to buoyant fluid, in which the fluid gradually rises from the sinking plume of particles, to form a second rising plume of source fluid; and (iii) a buoyant particle-laden plume, host to buoyant fluid, which rises from the discharge pipe, and from which particles gradually sediment. Classical models of single-phase plumes describe the initial motion of the plumes in cases (i) and (iii), but as the flow speed falls below the particle fall speed, sedimentation leads to a change in the averaged buoyancy, and, hence, the plume speed. Our data also suggest that the sedimentation leads to a reduction in the rate of entrainment of ambient fluid, compared with the classical single-phase plumes. We also show that with a density stratified ambient fluid, the stratification may arrest the plume prior to significant particle sedimentation, and in this case, the plume tends to spread downstream at the level of neutral buoyancy where particle sedimentation proceeds. The bulk density of the residual plume fluid may then remain intermediate between the density of the upper and lower layer fluid, or may become less dense than the upper layer fluid, in which case, following sedimentation, the plume fluid rises through the upper layer. While the dynamics of deep-sea mining plumes in the ocean are more complex, for example, owing to background turbulence and mixing, the results of our new laboratory experiments highlight the range of flow processes which may influence the initial dispersion and sedimentation of particles in such plumes following release into the water, depending on the initial conditions, the ambient density and the particle fall speed. We also discuss the relevance of our work in the context of ash dispersal by volcanic plumes.</jats:p>



Plumes, thermals, Particle, fluid flow, Multiphase flow, Waste management

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Cambridge University Press (CUP)