Modeling oil dispersion under breaking waves. Part I: Wave hydrodynamics

Fangda Cui, Cosan Daskiran, Thomas King, Brian Robinson, Kenneth Lee, Joseph Katz, Michel C. Boufadel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The dispersion (transport and breakup) of oil droplets under breaking waves is essential for evaluating the impact of oil spills on the environment, and for designing countermeasures. In this part of the work (Part I), the hydrodynamics of a wave breaker in a 1.0 m deep tank obtained experimentally by Rapp and Melville (Philos Trans R Soc Lond A Math Phys Eng Sci 331(1622):735–800, 1990) using the dispersive focusing method was investigated numerically using Reynold-averaged Navier–Stokes (RANS) within the CFD code ANSYS Fluent. The renormalization group (RNG) k–ε turbulence closure model was adopted to simulate wave turbulence, and the transient water–air interface was captured using volume of fluid (VOF) method. The simulated surface excursion and velocity fields matched closely the experimental observations during wave breaking. The energy dissipation of the wave crest showed good agreement with recent laboratory work and numerical simulations through evaluating the breaking parameter. The RANS approach was able to reproduce the turbulent kinetic energy field engendered by the breakers and simulated the residual turbulence within about two wave periods after the passage of the wave train. The VOF scheme Compressive provided a better agreement with the observation than the Geo-reconstruct scheme. The approach herein suggests that RANS method coupled with VOF in ANSYS Fluent is capable of capturing the major hydrodynamic forces and turbulence, and thus could be used to predict environmental processes within the breaking waves such as oil droplet formation and transport.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1527-1551
Number of pages25
JournalEnvironmental Fluid Mechanics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


  • Computational fluid dynamics
  • Deep-water plunging breaker
  • Dispersive focusing method
  • RANS method
  • Volume of fluid method


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