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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences


Publication details for Prof Jim McElwaine

Balmforth, N. J. & McElwaine, J. N. (2018). From episodic avalanching to continuous flow in a granular drum. Granular Matter 20(3): 52.

Author(s) from Durham


Experiments are conducted to study the transition from episodic avalanching (slumping) to continuous flow (rolling) in drums half full of granular material. The width and radius of the drum is varied and different granular materials are used, ranging from glass spheres with different radii to irregularly shaped sand. Image processing is performed in real time to extract relatively long time series of the surface slope derived from a linear fit to the granular surface. For the drums with glass spheres, the transition mostly takes the form of a blend of the characteristics of episodic avalanching and continuous flow, that gradually switches from slumping to rolling as the rotation rate increases. For sand, a hysteretic transition can be observed in which one observes prolonged episodic avalanching or continuous flow at the same rotation rate, spanning a window of rotation speeds. For drums with the smallest spheres (1 mm diameter), the transition takes the form of noise-driven intermittent switching between clearly identifiable phases of episodic avalanching or continuous flow. This style of transition is also found for the sand in either the largest or smallest drum (by volume). We formulate dimensionless groupings of the experimental parameters to locate the transition and characterize the mean surface slope and its fluctuations. We extract statistics for episodic avalanching, including angle distributions for avalanche initiation and cessation, the correlations between successive collapses, mean avalanche profiles and durations, and characteristic frequencies and spectra.