Thermophoresis of a spherical particle: modelling through moment-based, macroscopic transport equations

Research paper by Juan C. Padrino, James E. Sprittles, Duncan A. Lockerby

Indexed on: 12 Jan '19Published on: 10 Mar '19Published in: Journal of fluid mechanics


We consider the linearized form of the regularized 13-moment equations (R13) to model the slow, steady gas dynamics surrounding a rigid, heat-conducting sphere when a uniform temperature gradient is imposed far from the sphere and the gas is in a state of rarefaction. Under these conditions, the phenomenon of thermophoresis, characterized by forces on the solid surfaces, occurs. The R13 equations, derived from the Boltzmann equation using the moment method, provide closure to the mass, momentum and energy conservation laws in the form of constitutive, transport equations for the stress and heat flux that extend the Navier–Stokes–Fourier model to include non-equilibrium effects. We obtain analytical solutions for the field variables that characterize the gas dynamics and a closed-form expression for the thermophoretic force on the sphere. We also consider the slow, streaming flow of gas past a sphere using the same model resulting in a drag force on the body. The thermophoretic velocity of the sphere is then determined from the balance between thermophoretic force and drag. The thermophoretic force is compared with predictions from other theories, including Grad’s 13-moment equations (G13), variants of the Boltzmann equation commonly used in kinetic theory, and with recently published experimental data. The new results from R13 agree well with results from kinetic theory up to a Knudsen number (based on the sphere’s radius) of approximately 0.1 for the values of solid-to-gas heat conductivity ratios considered. However, in this range of Knudsen numbers, where for a very high thermal conductivity of the solid the experiments show reversed thermophoretic forces, the R13 solution, which does result in a reversal of the force, as well as the other theories predict significantly smaller forces than the experimental values. For Knudsen numbers between 0.1 and 1 approximately, the R13 model of thermophoretic force qualitatively shows the trend exhibited by the measurements and, among the various models considered, results in the least discrepancy.