Research Letter | Open Access
George Dassios, Panayiotis Vafeas, "On the Spheroidal Semiseparation for Stokes Flow", Physics Research International, vol. 2008, Article ID 135289, 4 pages, 2008. https://doi.org/10.1155/2008/135289
On the Spheroidal Semiseparation for Stokes Flow
Many heat and mass transport problems involve particle-fluid systems, where the assumption of Stokes flow provides a very good approximation for representing small particles embedded within a viscous, incompressible fluid characterizing the steady, creeping flow. The present work is concerned with some interesting practical aspects of the theoretical analysis of Stokes flow in spheroidal domains. The stream function , for axisymmetric Stokes flow, satisfies the well-known equation . Despite the fact that in spherical coordinates this equation admits separable solutions, this property is not preserved when one seeks solutions in the spheroidal geometry. Nevertheless, defining some kind of semiseparability, the complete solution for in spheroidal coordinates has been obtained in the form of products combining Gegenbauer functions of different degrees. Thus, the general solution is represented in a full-series expansion in terms of eigenfunctions, which are elements of the space (separable solutions), and in terms of generalized eigenfunctions, which are elements of the space (semiseparable solutions). In this work we revisit this aspect by introducing a different and simpler way of representing the aforementioned generalized eigenfunctions. Consequently, additional semiseparable solutions are provided in terms of the Gegenbauer functions, whereas the completeness is preserved and the full-series expansion is rewritten in terms of these functions.
Particle-fluid systems are encountered in many important technological applications and the study of Stokes flow  through a swarm of particles is of great theoretical and practical interest. The small size of the suspended particles allows us to assume the so-called Stokes flow approximation, which concerns the steady and creeping flow of an incompressible, viscous fluid. On the other hand, spheroidal geometry  is employed as a good approximation, since the particular analysis enjoys rotational symmetry and the flow is considered to be axisymmetric .
Two-dimensional Stokes flow is characterized by the existence of a stream function , necessary to obtain the velocity and the total pressure fields, and it belongs to the kernel of the fourth-order differential operator . In fact, rotational flows are described by stream functions that belong to the kernel of while provides us with irrotational fields. The importance of the Stokes stream function in low-Reynolds-number hydrodynamics is due to the fact that a single scalar function expresses the basic flow fields and at the same time carries all the physical interpretation .
The well-known equation of motion for the Stokes hypothesis is separable in Cartesian, cylindrical, and spherical coordinates. In addition, in spheroidal coordinates the equation admits separable solutions in the form of products of Gegenbauer functions of the first and of the second kind . Unfortunately, this property of separability is not preserved when one is searching for solutions of the equation of motion , a fact that has impeded considerably the development of several analyses or numerical implementations in order to solve physical problems. Dassios et al.  recently resolved this difficulty with the introduction of the method of semiseparation of variables, which is based on an appropriate finite-dimensional spectral decomposition of the operator . In particular, the complete solution for Stokes flow in spheroidal coordinates can be obtained through the theory of generalized eigenfunctions and this stream function enjoys the representation of a full-series expansion in terms of semiseparable eigenmodes . The solution for the Kuwabara model [5, 6], as well as the solution of other particle-in-cell physical problems [7, 8], has been obtained as a demonstration of this method.
However, indeterminacies appear when the Happel-type  or the Kuwabara-type  spheroidal models are solved in terms of the function . These indeterminacies were overcome through the imposition of an additional geometrical condition that secured the correct reduction to the sphere case. Nowadays, many efforts within the analytical framework are being made using the representation theory [3, 9] in order to avoid such kind of problems.
In this work, we attempt to find, through a new approach of the difficulty of nonseparability, the proper tools to eliminate the indeterminacies, which appear in basic problems of creeping flow. Our purpose is focusing on the construction of a new set of generalized eigenfunctions that belong to the kernel of the differential operator , rewritten in terms of the Gegenbauer functions of the first and of the second kind (see the appendix). Of course, the general solution is then presented as a series expansion in terms of these new eigenmodes. This procedure is based on the complete decomposition of axisymmetric Stokes flow , where the Stokes stream function that solves the equation is written as the linear combination of two other functions that belong to the . These generalized eigenfunctions are complete and the novelty of our work is established via an application.
Finally, we restrict our attention to prolate spheroids, since the results for the oblate spheroid can be obtained through a well-known transformation .
2. Mathematical Formulation
The governing equations that characterize the creeping, incompressible, and viscous motion within smooth and bounded domains are provided in terms of the biharmonic velocity field and the harmonic total pressure field , that is, with dynamic viscosity and mass density . Given , the vorticity of the flow is expressed via . Additionally, if the flow is symmetric with respect to an axis, Stokes flow can thus be described through the stream function , whereas the latter satisfies the equation of motion ()
Given a fixed positive number , which we consider to be the semifocal distance of our system, we define the transformed prolate spheroidal coordinates for , and : while the outward unit normal vector yields and the differential operator assumes the form The vorticity field is proved to be expressed as showing that irrotational fields are described by a stream function which belongs to the kernel of . Hence, every axisymmetric Stokes flow problem is being solved once is known via the theory of semiseparability of (2) introduced in .
Focusing our effort onto the production of new generalized eigenfunctions in order to solve basic mathematical problems in fluid dynamics, we mainly refer to the decomposition theorem  for a stream function that belongs to the kernel of . According to this theorem, which is identical to the Almansi theorem for biharmonic functions , every stream function that solves the equation of motion (2) can be written, in a nonunique way, as the sum of two terms, one which belongs to the kernel of and one which is the product of with a stream function of . Mathematically speaking, it is proved  that if and then . Conversely, given , there exist such that . This decomposition becomes unique for flows regular on the axis of symmetry.
Our purpose herein is to derive new generalized eigenmodes based on the previous important theorem in spheroidal geometry and hence, we are led to a new complete representation of generalized eigenfunctions.
3. Generalized Eigenfunctions
Introducing the eigenfunctions of kind and of order in terms of the Gegenbauer functions of the first and of the second kind via the formulae ( and ) the following complete representations of the kernel space of are obtained for and , that is, where and are constants. Then, writing and substituting (8), (9) into the previous decomposition theorem , we reach the following representation for , , by
Expression (10) stands for the complete solution of (2), while the new generalized eigenfunctions appearing in (10) are defined for , , as where using relations (A.4)–(A.5) they take the form for , and for their general form is where the constants , and are given by the expressions (A.6).
The corresponding results for an oblate spheroid are obtained through the simple transformation  where and are the new characteristic variables.
As an application of our generalized formulae, we demonstrate the Stokes flow problem, preserving axial symmetry, of a constant uniform streaming flow passing a solid prolate spheroid in the negative direction parallel to its axis of revolution. Suppose that the stationary spheroid with axes (-direction of symmetry) and is defined as where the semifocal distance is . In terms of the stream function , the uniform velocity implies while the nonslip boundary conditions on the surface of the spheroid assume the forms for every . Combining the asymptotic condition (15) with the orthogonality (A.3) of the Gegenbauer functions, we see that the solution of our exterior problem requires certain terms of the expansion (10), those that include only in view of formulae (12)–(13) and relations (A.1)–(A.2). Hence, if we apply boundary conditions (16) to the reduced form of (10), we arrive to the solution which is the stream function for the flow past a spheroid given in . Here, we utilized the definition of the associated Legendre functions , (A.1), and the relationship for .
The Gegenbauer functions and of the first and of the second kind, respectively, are defined in terms of the Legendre functions ,  as follows: for every and , while
Furthermore, satisfies the orthogonality relation for , where denotes the Kronecker delta.
Some important recurrence relations are for and , while for and , where
This work was performed while the first author holds the “Marie Curie Chair of Excellence” project BRAIN in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics of the University of Cambridge, UK, granted by the European Commission under Code no. EXC 023928.
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Copyright © 2008 George Dassios and Panayiotis Vafeas. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.