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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Prof Jim McElwaine

Sauret, A., Balmforth, N. J., Caulfield, C. P. & McElwaine, J. N. (2014). Bulldozing of granular material. Journal of Fluid Mechanics 748: 143-174.

Author(s) from Durham


We investigate the bulldozing motion of a granular sandpile driven forwards by a vertical plate. The problem is set up in the laboratory by emplacing the pile on a table rotating underneath a stationary plate; the continual circulation of the bulldozed material allows the dynamics to be explored over relatively long times, and the variation of the velocity with radius permits one to explore the dependence on bulldozing speed within a single experiment. We measure the time-dependent surface shape of the dune for a range of rotation rates, initial volumes and radial positions, for four granular materials, ranging from glass spheres to irregularly shaped sand. The evolution of the dune can be separated into two phases: a rapid initial adjustment to a state of quasi-steady avalanching perpendicular to the blade, followed by a much slower phase of lateral spreading and radial migration. The quasi-steady avalanching sets up a well-defined perpendicular profile with a nearly constant slope. This profile can be scaled by the depth against the bulldozer to collapse data from different times, radial positions and experiments onto common ‘master curves’ that are characteristic of the granular material and depend on the local Froude number. The lateral profile of the dune along the face of the bulldozer varies more gradually with radial position, and evolves by slow lateral spreading. The spreading is asymmetrical, with the inward progress of the dune eventually arrested and its bulk migrating to larger radii. A one-dimensional depth-averaged model recovers the nearly linear perpendicular profile of the dune, but does not capture the finer nonlinear details of the master curves. A two-dimensional version of the model leads to an advection–diffusion equation that reproduces the lateral spreading and radial migration. Simulations using the discrete element method reproduce in more quantitative detail many of the experimental findings and furnish further insight into the flow dynamics.