Journal of Fluid Mechanics


Shear-weakening of the transitional regime for granular flow


a1 Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90025, USA

a2 Department of Earth and Planetary Science, University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA


This paper experimentally investigates the rheology of dense granular flow through itssolid-like to fluid-like transition. Between the well-established flow regimes – quasi-static and grain-inertial – the physical description of the transition remains elusive. Our experiment uses a top-rotating torsional shear cell capable of ± 1 μm accuracy in height and 5 decades (10−3 − 100 rad s−1) in rotation rate. The data on beach sand shows that shear and normal stresses exhibit an inverse rate-dependence under a controlledvolume environment in the transitional regime, while in the limiting regimes the results are in agreement with previous work. Theshear-weakening stresses illustrate a previouslyunknown ‘dip’ with increasingshear rate. Under a controlled-pressure environment, however, the shear-compacting volume-fraction ‘peaks’ with increasing shear-rate. We combine these results from both configurations to infer a constitutive law based on a rate-invariant granular fluid compressibility. The formulation provides an equation-of-state for dynamic granular systems, with state variables of pressure, strain rate and free-volume-fraction. Fitting parameters from independent constant-volume and constant-pressure data shows good agreement in validating our model. Moreover, the degree of grain jaggedness is essential to the rate-dependence within the transitional regime. The results on the solid–fluid transitionmay elucidate the evolution of granular flow anisotropies.

(Received September 06 2006)

(Revised May 11 2007)