Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

3-D imaging reveals hidden forces behind clogs, jams, avalanches, earthquakes

05.03.2015

Pick up a handful of sand, and it flows through your fingers like a liquid. But when you walk on the beach, the sand supports your weight like a solid. What happens to the forces between the jumbled sand grains when you step on them to keep you from sinking?

An international team of researchers collaborating at Duke University have developed a new way to measure the forces inside materials such as sand, soil or snow under pressure.


Physicists are using this computerized 3-D rendering of beads in a box to serve as a model for soil, sand or snow. Colored lines show the network of forces as the virtual particles are pushed together. Thick red lines connect the particles that are experiencing the brunt of the force. By studying the forces inside granular materials as they're pressed, pushed or squeezed, the researchers hope to better understand phenomena like the jamming of grain hoppers or the early warning signs of earthquakes and avalanches.

Credit: Video courtesy of Nicolas Brodu.

Described in the March 5 issue of Nature Communications, the technique uses lasers coupled with force sensors, digital cameras and advanced computer algorithms to peer inside and measure the forces between neighboring particles in 3-D.

The new approach will allow researchers to better understand phenomena like the jamming of grain hoppers or the early warning signs of earthquakes and avalanches, said study co-author Nicolas Brodu, now at the French institute Inria.

Whether footprints in sand, or the force of gravity on a mountain slope, physicists have long sought to understand what happens inside granular materials as they're pressed, pushed or squeezed.

For centuries this simple question has been surprisingly difficult to answer. But more recently, thanks to advances in 3-D imaging techniques and the number-crunching power of computers, researchers are starting to get a better picture of what happens when granular materials like soil or snow are pushed together.

Brodu, along with physicists Robert Behringer of Duke University and Joshua Dijksman of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, describe how they use simple tools to measure the network of forces at it spreads from one particle to the next.

The researchers use a solution of hundreds of translucent hydrogel beads in a Plexiglass box to simulate materials like soil, sand or snow.

A piston repeatedly pushes down on the beads in the box while a sheet of laser light scans the box, and a camera takes a series of cross-sectional images of the illuminated sections.

Like MRI scans used in medicine, the technique works by converting these cross-sectional "slices" into a 3-D image.

Custom-built imaging software stacks the hundreds of thousands of 2-D images together to reconstruct the surface of each individual particle in three dimensions, over time. By measuring the tiny deformations in the particles as they are squeezed together, the researchers are able to calculate the forces between them.

The new approach will help researchers better understand a range of natural and manmade hazards, such as why farmworkers stepping into grain bins sometimes experience a quicksand effect and are suddenly sucked under.

"This gives us hope of understanding what happens in disasters like a landslide, when packed soil and rocks on a mountain become loose and slide down," Brodu said. "First it acts like a solid, and then for reasons physicists don't completely understand, all of a sudden it destabilizes and starts to flow like a liquid. This transition from solid to liquid can only be understood if you know what's going on inside the soil."

The team has already used results from their technique to create a new model for the way particulate matter behaves, which is concurrently published in the journal Physical Review E.

###

This research was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (DMR1206351, DMS1248071), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NNX10AU01G), and the U.S. Army Research Office (W911NF-1-11-0110).

CITATION: "Spanning the Scales of Granular Materials through Microscopic Force Imaging," Brodu, N., J. A. Dijksman and R. P. Behringer. Nature Communications, March 2015. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms7361

Media Contact

Robin Ann Smith
ras10@duke.edu
919-681-8057

 @DukeU

http://www.duke.edu 

Robin Ann Smith | EurekAlert!

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Basque researchers turn light upside down
23.02.2018 | Elhuyar Fundazioa

nachricht Attoseconds break into atomic interior
23.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>