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Flow-induced agitations create a granular fluid: effective viscosity and fluctuations.

  • Nichol, Kiri
  • van Hecke, Martin
Published Article
Physical Review E
American Physical Society (APS)
Publication Date
Jun 01, 2012
6 Pt 1
PMID: 23005088


We fluidize a granular medium with localized stirring in a split-bottom shear cell. We probe the mechanical response of quiescent regions far from the main flow by observing the vertical motion of cylindrical probes rising, sinking, and floating in the grains. First, we find that the probe motion suggests that the granular material behaves in a liquid-like manner: high-density probes sink and low-density probes float at the depth given by Archimedes' law. Second, we observe that the drag force on moving probes scales linearly with their velocity, which allows us to define an effective viscosity for the system. This effective viscosity is inversely proportional to the rotation rate of the disk which drives the split bottom flow. Moreover, the apparent viscosity depends on radius and mass of the probe: despite the linear dependence of the drag forces on sinking speed of the probe, the granular medium is not simply Newtonian, but exhibits a more complex rheology. The decrease of viscosity with filling height of the cell, combined with the poor correlation between local strain rate and viscosity, suggests that the fluid-like character of the material is set by agitations generated in the stirred region: the relation between applied stress and observed strain rate in one location depends on the strain rate in another location. We probe the nature of the granular fluctuations that we believe mediates these nonlocal interactions by characterizing the small and random up and down motion that the probe experiences. These Gaussian fluctuations exhibit a mix of diffusive and subdiffusive behavior at short times and saturate at a value of roughly 1/10th of a grain diameter longer times, consistent with the picture of a random walker in a potential well. The product of crossover time and effective viscosity is constant, evidencing a direct link between fluctuations and viscosity.

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