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Industrial Supply

Pipelines without turbulence possible

It could be a major breakthrough in energy efficiency: Evidently, flow turbulence in pipes can be effectively prevented.

08 Feb. 2018
Roland Ackermann
Foto: IST Austria
Foto: IST Austria

Researchers at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) joined forces with colleagues from the Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity at the University of Bremen, discounting an assumption that has until now been accepted as fact: that turbulence in pipes remains turbulence. The paper "Destabilizing turbulence in pipe flow", which has now been published in Nature Physics , proves that turbulent flows can indeed be transformed into laminar flows . And: Laminar flows even remain stable.

This insight is important in that it promises major energy savings. After all, owing to their high frictional resistance, turbulent flows in pipelines require a great amount of pumping force, which makes up around 10% (!) of global energy consumption around the globe. Transforming this turbulence into an even layered flow could save up to 95% of pump energy in pipelines.

Until now, everyone accepted the turbulence and were content with keeping it to a minimum. The team led by Prof. Björn Hof has now shown that it is possible to destabilize turbulence, breaking it down and making flows laminar. Flows then remain laminar provided they are not disturbed further.