Field implementation of Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) for studying flow dynamics at river confluences

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Quinn W Lewis and Bruce L Rhoads, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Urbana, IL, United States
The complex hydrodynamics of river confluences have been the focus of numerous investigations over the past several decades. Confluences are locations in river systems characterized by complex patterns of turbulent flow structure, especially within the mixing interface that develops between the two flows. To date, most field investigations of flow structure at stream confluences have been based on point measurements of velocity time series (e.g using ADVs) or on time-averaged data with high spatial resolution, but poor temporal resolution (e.g. using ADCPs). Past approaches have failed to capture the spatial and temporal density of velocity measurements needed to adequately characterize complex turbulent flow structures. In contrast, Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) has been used successfully in laboratory studies to define in considerable detail the characteristics of turbulent structures. This study uses field-based PIV to characterize surficial flow structure within a small stream confluence. Landscape mulch served as seeding material for the PIV. Particle motion was recorded at a high frame rate using a small action camera mounted above the surface of the flow. Near-surface 3D velocities of flow were measured with an acoustic Doppler velocimeter (ADV) to evaluate velocity data generated by the PIV analysis. Results show that field-based PIV captures nicely complex patterns of fluid motion at the surface of the flow, revealing the two-dimensional characteristics of coherent flow structures. Velocities resulting from the PIV analysis match measured velocities most closely where the flow is least complex and where seeding material remains uniformly distributed throughout the flow. Overall the method appears promising for qualitatively assessing flow structure and for quantifying the size, duration, and vorticity of turbulent structures. Field-based PIV is a valuable technique that can be used along with traditional velocity measurements to more completely and effectively characterize complex turbulent flows in river environments.