Study of the Effect of Thermal Dispersion on Internal Natural Convection in Porous Media Using Fourier Series

Marwan Fahs, Thomas Graf, Tuong Vi Tran, Behzad Ataie-Ashtiani, Craig T. Simmons, Anis Younes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Natural convection in a porous enclosure in the presence of thermal dispersion is investigated. The Fourier–Galerkin (FG) spectral element method is adapted to solve the coupled equations of Darcy’s flow and heat transfer with a full velocity-dependent dispersion tensor, employing the stream function formulation. A sound implementation of the FG method is developed to obtain accurate solutions within affordable computational costs. In the spectral space, the stream function is expressed analytically in terms of temperature, and the spectral system is solved using temperature as the primary unknown. The FG method is compared to finite element solutions obtained using an in-house code (TRACES), OpenGeoSys and COMSOL Multiphysics®. These comparisons show the high accuracy of the FG solution which avoids numerical artifacts related to time and spatial discretization. Several examples having different dispersion coefficients and Rayleigh numbers are tested to analyze the solution behavior and to gain physical insight into the thermal dispersion processes. The effect of thermal dispersion coefficients on heat transfer and convective flow in a porous square cavity has not been investigated previously. Here, taking advantage of the developed FG solution, a detailed parameter sensitivity analysis is carried out to address this gap. In the presence of thermal dispersion, the Rayleigh number mainly affects the convective velocity and the heat flux to the domain. At high Rayleigh numbers, the temperature distribution is mainly controlled by the longitudinal dispersion coefficient. Longitudinal dispersion flux is important along the adiabatic walls while transverse dispersion dominates the heat flux toward the isothermal walls. Correlations between the average Nusselt number and dispersion coefficients are derived for three Rayleigh number regimes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-568
Number of pages32
JournalTransport in Porous Media
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2019


  • COMSOL multiphysics
  • Darcy’s law
  • Fourier series solution
  • Natural convection
  • Nusselt number
  • Parameter sensitivity analysis
  • Thermal dispersion


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