Published in Computational Particle Mechanics Vol. 4 (3), pp. 345-356, 2017
Dam bottom outlets play a vital role in dam operation and safety, as they allow controlling the water surface elevation below the spillway level. For partial openings, water flows under the gate lip at high velocity and drags the air downstream of the gate, which may cause damages due to cavitation and vibration. The convenience of installing air vents in dam bottom outlets is well known by practitioners. The design of this element depends basically on the maximum air flow through the air vent, which in turn is a function of the specific geometry and the boundary conditions. The intrinsic features of this phenomenon makes it hard to analyse either on site or in full scaled experimental facilities. As a consequence, empirical formulas are frequently employed, which offer a conservative estimate of the maximum air flow. In this work, the particle finite element method was used to model the air–water interaction in Susqueda Dam bottom outlet, with different gate openings. Specific enhancements of the formulation were developed to consider air–water interaction. The results were analysed as compared to the conventional design criteria and to information gathered on site during the gate operation tests. This analysis suggests that numerical modelling with the PFEM can be helpful for the design of this kind of hydraulic works.