Thin-film flow in helically wound rectangular channels with small torsion

Stokes, Y.M. and Duffy, Brian R. and Wilson, Stephen K. and Tronnolone, H. (2013) Thin-film flow in helically wound rectangular channels with small torsion. Physics of Fluids, 25 (8). 083103. ISSN 1070-6631 (

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Laminar gravity-driven thin-film flow down a helically-wound channel of rectangular cross-section with small torsion in which the fluid depth is small is considered. Neglecting the entrance and exit regions we obtain the steady-state solution that is independent of position along the axis of the channel, so that the flow, which comprises a primary flow in the direction of the axis of the channel and a secondary flow in the cross-sectional plane, depends only on position in the two-dimensional cross-section of the channel. A thin-film approximation yields explicit expressions for the fluid velocity and pressure in terms of the free-surface shape, the latter satisfying a non-linear ordinary differential equation that has a simple exact solution in the special case of a channel of rectangular cross-section. The predictions of the thin-film model are shown to be in good agreement with much more computationally intensive solutions of the small-helix-torsion Navier–Stokes equations. The present work has particular relevance to spiral particle separators used in the mineral-processing industry. The validity of an assumption commonly used in modelling flow in spiral separators, namely that the flow in the outer region of the separator cross-section is described by a free vortex, is shown to depend on the problem parameters.


Stokes, Y.M., Duffy, Brian R. ORCID logoORCID:, Wilson, Stephen K. ORCID logoORCID: and Tronnolone, H.;