Flow dynamics in the vicinity of a gravel embedded vertical retaining wall: conditions corresponding to the initial stages of local erosion

Research paper by Nasser Heydari, Panayiotis Diplas

Indexed on: 28 Aug '19Published on: 28 Aug '19Published in: Environmental Fluid Mechanics


The present study examines the turbulent flow characteristics in the vicinity of the leading edge of a vertical retaining wall structure embedded in a gravel bed. Conditions before and during the initial stages of local scour development were considered. To that end, three laboratory experiments were carried out: one with fixed boundaries as a reference case, a second one with an erodible bed, but immobile channel bank, and a third one characterized by an erodible channel bed and bank. Instantaneous and time-averaged flow features, and turbulence statistics associated with the three-component velocity fields, obtained with a stereoscopic particle image velocimetry system, were analyzed. Water surface examination determined that channel bank erosion alters flow behavior upstream of the retaining wall. This change is manifested through more frequent formation of eddies near the top corner of the junction between the upstream face of the protrusion and the channel bank. Time-averaged and instantaneous velocity vector fields demonstrate the presence of two counter-rotating vortices in the experiments with the fixed channel bank, one located near the junction of retaining wall and the channel bed and one away from it generated as a result of a strong downflow. The latter motion represents a section of a horseshoe vortex. During the channel bank erosion, however, these vortices are not as significant and persistent. The results also indicate that the coherency and magnitude of the streamwise vorticity field diminish as a result of scour. However, it was confirmed that local turbulent kinetic energy and shear stresses increase in the presence of scour due to enhanced local flow separation.