This work focuses on the predictions of turbulent transition in oscillatory flow subjected to temperature gradients, which often occurs within heat exchangers of thermoacoustic devices. A two-dimensional computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model was developed in ANSYS FLUENT and validated using the earlier experimental data. Four drive ratios (defined as maximum pressure amplitude to mean pressure) were investigated: 0.30%, 0.45%, 0.65% and 0.83%. It has been found that the introduction of the turbulence model at a drive ratio as low as 0.45% improves the predictions of flow structure compared to experiments, which indicates that turbulent transition may occur at much smaller flow amplitudes than previously thought. In the current investigation, the critical Reynolds number based on the thickness of Stokes’ layer falls in the range between 70 and 100. The models tested included four variants of the RANS (Reynolds-Averaged Navier–Stokes) equations: k-ε, k-ω, shear-stress-transport (SST)-k-ω and transition-SST, the laminar model being used as a reference. Discussions are based on velocity profiles, vorticity plots, viscous dissipation and the resulting heat transfer and their comparison with experimental results. The SST-k-ω turbulence model and, in some cases, transition-SST provide the best fit of the velocity profile between numerical and experimental data (the value of the introduced metric measuring the deviation of the CFD velocity profiles from experiment is up to 43% lower than for the laminar model) and also give the best match in terms of calculated heat flux. The viscous dissipation also increases with an increase of the drive ratio. The results suggest that turbulence should be considered when designing thermoacoustic devices even in low-amplitude regimes in order to improve the performance predictions of thermoacoustic systems.
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