Tuesday, September 23, 2008 - 3:15pm
1.5 hours (actually 80 minutes)
Granular materials are important in a wide variety of contexts, such as avalanches and industrial processing of powders and grains. In this talk, I discuss some of the issues in understanding how granular materials flow, and especially how they tend to segregate by size. The segregation process, known scientifically as kinetic sieving, and more colorfully as The Brazil Nut Effect, involves the tendency of small particles to fall into spaces created by large particles. The small particles then force the large particles upwards, as in a shaken can of mixed nuts, in which the large Brazil nuts tend to end up near the lid. I'll describe ongoing physics experiments, mathematical modeling of kinetic sieving, and the results of analysis of the models (which are nonlinear partial differential equations). Movies of simulations and exact solutions illustrate the role of shock waves after layers of small and large particles have formed.