Settling velocity of natural particles


  • William E. Dietrich


Data from 14 previous experimental studies were used to develop an empirical equation that accounts for the effects of size, density, shape, and roundness on the settling velocity of natural sediment. This analysis was done in terms of four nondimensional parameters, namely, the dimensionless nominal diameter D*, the dimensionless settling velocity W*, the Corey shape factor, and the Powers roundness index. For high D* (large or dense particles), changes in roundness and shape factor have similar magnitude effects on settling velocity. Roundness varies much less for naturally occuring grains, however, and hence is a less important control than shape. For a typical coarse sand with a Powers roundness of 3.5 and a Corey shape factor of 0.7, the settling velocity is about 0.68 that of a sphere of the same D*, with shape and roundness effects contributing about equally to the settling velocity reduction. At low D* the reduction in settling velocity due to either shape or roundness is much less. Moreover, at low D*, low roundness causes a greater decrease in settling velocity at low shape factor values than at high shape factor values. This appears to be due to the increased surface drag on the flatter grains.