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Journal of Arid Land  2021, Vol. 13 Issue (3): 290-302    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-021-0059-4
Research article     
Optimization designs of artificial facilities in deserts based on computational simulation
DUN Hongchao, HUANG Ning*(), ZHANG Jie*()
Key Laboratory of Mechanics on Disaster and Environment in Western China, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China
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Sediment transport of sand particles by wind is one of the main processes leading to desertification in arid regions, which severely impairs the ability of mankind to produce and live by drifting sand into settlements. Optimization designs of artificial facilities have lately attracted extensive interest for human settlement systems in deserts because of their acceptable protection effect, convenience of implementation, and low material cost. However, the complexity of a settlement system poses challenges concerning finding suitable materials, artificial facilities, and optimization designs for sand deposition protection. In an effort to overcome these challenges, we propose a settlement system built with brick, solar panel, and building arrays to meet the basic needs of human settlements in arid regions while preventing wind-sand disasters. The wind flow and movement characteristics of sand particles in the brick, panel, and building arrays were calculated using computational fluid dynamics and discrete phase model. The performance of three types of arrays in wind-sand flow in terms of decreasing the wind velocity and sand-particle invasion distance was evaluated. The results show that the wind velocity near the surface and the sand invasion distance were significantly decreased in the space between the brick arrays through properly selected vertical size and interspaces, indicating that the brick arrays have an impressive sand fixing and blocking performance; their effective protection distance was 3-4 m. The building arrays increased the near-surface wind velocity among buildings, resulting in less deposition of sand particles. The solar panel arrays were similar to the building arrays in most cases, but the deposition of sand particles on solar panels exerted a negative effect on energy utilization efficiency. Therefore, taking the optimal configuration of the settlement system into consideration, this study concludes that (1) brick arrays, which were proven effective in preventing sand particles, must be arranged in an upwind area; (2) solar panel arrays could accelerate the wind flow, so they are best to be arranged at the place where sand particles deposited easily; and (3) building arrays present a better arrangement in downwind areas.

Key wordsdesert city      sand deposition      optimization      wind flow      sand movement     
Received: 29 October 2020      Published: 10 March 2021
Corresponding Authors: HUANG Ning,ZHANG Jie     E-mail:;
About author: * HUANG Ning (;
Cite this article:

DUN Hongchao, HUANG Ning, ZHANG Jie. Optimization designs of artificial facilities in deserts based on computational simulation. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(3): 290-302.

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Fig. 1 A schematic diagram of a settlement system including brick, solar panel, and building arrays
Fig. 2 Schematic sketch of brick arrays (a), solar panel arrays (b), and building arrays (c) on the computational domain and boundary conditions. Sand particles are blown into the simulation models from the left as the wind direction.
Fig. 3 Roughness length zh normalized with height (h) versus roughness concentration (λ)
Type of arrays Horizontal
space (m)
space (m)
size (m)
size (m)
size (m)
0.20 0.30 0.10 0.05 0.10 90 0.3
0.30 0.40 0.15 0.10 0.15 90 0.4
0.40 0.50 0.20 0.15 0.20 90 0.5
0.50 0.60 0.25 0.20 0.25 90 0.6
0.60 0.70 0.30 0.25 0.30 90 0.7
Solar panel
0.00 0.10 - 0.05 0.10 15 0.3
0.05 0.15 - 0.10 0.15 30 0.4
0.10 0.20 - 0.15 0.20 45 0.5
0.15 0.25 - 0.20 0.25 60 0.6
- 0.30 - 0.25 0.30 75 0.7
10.00 10.00 10.00 10.00 3.00 90 0.3
20.00 20.00 20.00 20.00 10.00 90 0.4
30.00 30.00 30.00 30.00 17.00 90 0.5
40.00 40.00 40.00 40.00 24.00 90 0.6
50.00 50.00 50.00 50.00 30.00 90 0.7
Table 1 Changes in the spaces, sizes, angles, and friction velocity of the three types of arrays
Fig. 4 Simulation results of sand particles limit ability of brick arrays with inlet friction velocity (u*=0.3 m/s). (a), velocity contour plot of brick arrays; (b), trajectories of sand particles in brick arrays.
Fig. 5 Relationships of the mean air velocity versus (a) the space between bricks with u*=0.3 m/s, (b) the size of bricks with u*=0.3 m/s, and (c) the u*. u*, friction velocity.
Fig. 6 Variations of the invasion distance versus (a) the space between bricks with u*=0.3 m/s, (b) the size of bricks with u*=0.3 m/s, and (c) the u*.
Fig. 7 Simulation results of sand particles limit ability of solar panel arrays with inlet friction velocity u*=0.3 m/s. (a), velocity contour plot of solar panel arrays; (b), trajectories of sand particles in solar panel arrays.
Fig. 8 Variations of the mean velocity versus (a) the space between panels with u*=0.3 m/s, (b) the sizes of panels with u*=0.3 m/s, (c) the angle between the panels and the ground with u*=0.3 m/s, and (d) the u*.
Fig. 9 Simulation results of sand particles limit ability of building arrays with inlet friction velocity u*=0.3 m/s. (a), velocity contour plot of building arrays; (b), trajectories of sand particles in building arrays.
Fig. 10 Variations of the mean velocity versus (a) the space between buildings with u*=0.3 m/s, (b) the sizes of building with u*=0.3 m/s, and (c) the u*.
Fig. 11 Distribution of sand flux in streamwise direction in brick arrays versus (a) the space between bricks with u*=0.3 m/s, (b) the size of bricks with u*=0.3 m/s, and (c) the u*.
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