Effect of Volume Fraction on Granular Aavalanche Dynamics

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Gravish, Nick
Goldman, Daniel I.
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We study the evolution and failure of a granular slope as a function of prepared volume fraction, φ0. We rotated an initially horizontal layer of granular material (0.3-mm-diam glass spheres) to a 45◦ angle while we monitor the motion of grains from the side and top with high-speed video cameras. The dynamics of grain motion during the tilt process depended sensitively on φ0∈ [0.58–0.63] and differed above or below the granular critical state, φc, defined as the onset of dilation as a function of increasing volume fraction. For φ0−φc < 0, slopes experienced short, rapid, precursor compaction events prior to the onset of a sustained avalanche. Precursor compaction events began at an initial angle θ0 = 7.7 ± 1.4◦ and occurred intermittently prior to the onset of an avalanche. Avalanches occurred at the maximal slope angle θm =28.5 ± 1.0◦. Granular material at φ0 − φc > 0 did not experience precursor compaction prior to avalanche flow, and instead experienced a single dilational motion at θ0 = 32.1 ± 1.5◦ prior to the onset of an avalanche at θm = 35.9 ± 0.7◦. Both θ0 and θm increased with φ0 and approached the same value in the limit of random close packing. The angle at which avalanching grains came to rest, θR = 22 ± 2◦, was independent of φ0. From side-view high-speed video, we measured the velocity field of intermittent and avalanching flow. We found that flow direction, depth, and duration were affected by φ0, with φ0 − φc < 0 precursor flow extending deeper into the granular bed and occurring more rapidly than precursor flow at φ0 − φc > 0. Our study elucidates how initial conditions—including volume fraction—are important determinants of granular slope stability and the onset of avalanches.
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