Densely packed granular particles that inch past each other under tension interact in ways more complex and surprising than previously believed, two Duke University physicists have discovered.
Their observations, described in the Thursday, February 27, 2003, issue of the research journal Nature, could provide new insight into such geophysical processes as the behavior of a slowly moving glacier or an active earthquake fault, said Robert Behringer, a Duke physics professor who is one of the Nature articles authors. The physicists findings could also have implications for industrial problems, such as how the contents of a hopper holding granular materials such as grain or coal flow, he added.
By using plastic beads made of a material that affects light differently when under stress, Behringer and graduate student Robert Hartley have for the first time shown what happens to grains in a granular network subjected to frictional or "shear" forces that may build slowly.
Monte Basgall | EurekAlert!
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