Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Physicists Find that Size Matters When Initiating an Object's Movement Through Grains

A team of Penn State physicists has discovered that the size of grains, such as sand grains, under which an object is buried is important in determining the force required to begin raising the object.

No one, until now, has discovered how much force is required to initiate an object's movement through grains. The result may be useful for engineering foundations for objects to be anchored in sandy soils, such as power-line towers, or for designing industrial mixer blades, such as those used in pharmaceutical processing. The team's paper is published this month in the journal Physical Review Letters.

"We found that less force is needed to lift an object that is buried beneath small grains than is needed to lift an object that is buried beneath larger grains," said Peter Schiffer, associate vice president for research and a professor of physics at Penn State. "Basically, if you are buried alive and you have to push open a coffin lid, it’s better to be buried under fine-grained sand than under pebbles," he said.

According to Schiffer, other researchers have examined how much force is required to maintain an object's movement through grains, but no one previously had looked at how much force is required to initiate it. "The two measurements are different," he said. "When initiating the movement of an object, the grains immediately above the object must be shifted out of the way to make space for the object to move, which requires that the surrounding grains be loosened. In contrast, an object that already is in motion requires less force to maintain that motion because the surrounding grains are already loosened. It’s the loosening of grains around the object that seems to make the difference," said Schiffer.

The scientists built an apparatus that measures the force required to push a flat circular plate upward from the bottom of a cylindrical bucket that is filled with glass beads. The team measured the force using different sizes of glass beads and found that the smallest beads required the least amount of force to lift the plate. "The total weight of the grains above the plate was adjusted so that it was the same regardless of grain size," said Dan Costantino, a Penn State graduate student and one of the paper's lead author.

In the future, the team plans to measure the force required to initiate the horizontal movement of an object through grains. They also plan to substitute water or a heavy liquid for the air in between the grains. "A liquid that has the same density as the grains will effectively make the grains weightless, so we can further investigate whether the strength of grains comes from their weight or from the way they are packaged together," said Costantino.

This research was supported by NASA and the National Science Foundation.
Sara LaJeunesse
Peter Schiffer: (+1) 814-863-9658,
Dan Costantino: (+1) 814-865-7260,
Barbara Kennedy (PIO): 814-863-4682,

Barbara K. Kennedy | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Move over, lasers: Scientists can now create holograms from neutrons, too
21.10.2016 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

nachricht Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus
20.10.2016 | The Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences

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: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>