The fluid-structure interaction mechanisms involved in the development of narrowband and broadband vortex-induced vibrations of long flexible structures placed in non-uniform currents are investigated by means of direct numerical simulation. We consider a tensioned beam of aspect ratio 200, free to move in both the in-line and cross-flow directions, and immersed in a sheared flow at Reynolds number 330. Both narrowband and broadband multi-frequency vibrations may develop, depending on the velocity profile of the sheared oncoming current.
Narrowband vibrations occur when lock-in, i.e. the synchronization between vortex shedding and structure oscillations, is limited to a single location along the span, within the high current velocity region; thus, well-defined lock-in versus non-lock-in regions are noted along the span. In contrast, we show that broadband responses, where both high and low structural wavelengths are excited, are characterized by several isolated regions of lock-in, distributed along the length. The phenomenon of distributed lock-in impacts the synchronization of the in-line and cross-flow vibrations, and the properties of the fluid-structure energy transfer, as function of time and space.