Chaotic mixing of granular materials in two-dimensional tumbling mixers

D. V. Khakhar, J. J. McCarthy, J. F. Gilchrist, J. M. Ottino*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


We consider the mixing of similar, cohesionless granular materials in quasi-two-dimensional rotating containers by means of theory and experiment. A mathematical model is presented for the flow in containers of arbitrary shape but which are symmetric with respect to rotation by 180° and half-filled with solids. The flow comprises a thin cascading layer at the flat free surface, and a fixed bed which rotates as a solid body. The layer thickness and length change slowly with mixer rotation, but the layer geometry remains similar at all orientations. Flow visualization experiments using glass beads in an elliptical mixer show good agreement with model predictions. Studies of mixing are presented for circular, elliptical, and square containers. The flow in circular containers is steady, and computations involving advection alone (no particle diffusion generated by interparticle collisions) show poor mixing. In contrast, the flow in elliptical and square mixers is time periodic and results in chaotic advection and rapid mixing. Computational evidence for chaos in noncircular mixers is presented in terms of Poincaré sections and blob deformation. Poincaré sections show regions of regular and chaotic motion, and blobs deform into homoclinic tendrils with an exponential growth of the perimeter length with time. In contrast, in circular mixers, the motion is regular everywhere and the perimeter length increases linearly with time. Including particle diffusion obliterates the typical chaotic structures formed on mixing; predictions of the mixing model including diffusion are in good qualitative and quantitative (in terms of the intensity of segregation variation with time) agreement with experimental results for mixing of an initially circular blob in elliptical and square mixers. Scaling analysis and computations show that mixing in noncircular mixers is faster than that in circular mixers, and the difference in mixing times increases with mixer size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-205
Number of pages11
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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