A conveyor belt experimental setup to study the internal dynamics of granular avalanches

Tomás Trewhela, Christophe Ancey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Abstract: This paper shows how a conveyor belt setup can be used to study the dynamics of stationary granular flows. To visualise the flow within the granular bulk and, in particular, determine its composition and the velocity field, we used the refractive index matching (RIM) technique combined with particle tracking velocimetry and coarse-graining algorithms. Implementing RIM posed varied technical, design and construction difficulties. To test the experimental setup and go beyond a mere proof of concept, we carried out granular flow experiments involving monodisperse and bidisperse borosilicate glass beads. These flows resulted in stationary avalanches with distinct regions whose structures were classified as: (i) a convective-bulged front, (ii) a compact-layered tail and, between them, (iii) a breaking size-segregation wave structure. We found that the bulk strain rate, represented by its tensor invariants, varied significantly between the identified flow structures, and their values supported the observed avalanche characteristics. The flow velocity fields’ interpolated profiles adjusted well to a Bagnold-like profile, although a considerable basal velocity slip was measured. We calculated a segregation flux using recent developments in particle-size segregation theory. Along with vertical velocity changes and high expansion rates, segregation fluxes were markedly higher at the avalanche’s leading edge, suggesting a connection between flow rheology and grain segregation. The experimental conveyor belt’s results showed the potential for further theoretical developments in rheology and segregation-coupled models. Graphic Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish
Article number207
JournalExperiments in Fluids
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'A conveyor belt experimental setup to study the internal dynamics of granular avalanches'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this