Segregation patterns in three-dimensional granular flows

Mengqi Yu, Julio M. Ottino, Richard M. Lueptow*, Paul B. Umbanhowar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Flow of size-bidisperse particle mixtures in a spherical tumbler rotating alternately about two perpendicular axes produces segregation patterns that track the location of nonmixing islands predicted by a dynamical systems approach. To better understand the paradoxical accumulation of large particles in regions defined by barriers to transport, we perform discrete element method (DEM) simulations to visualize the three-dimensional structure of the segregation patterns and track individual particles. Our DEM simulations and modeling results indicate that segregation pattern formation in the biaxial spherical tumbler is due to the interaction of size-driven radial segregation with the weak spanwise component of the advective surface flow. Specifically, we find that after large particles segregate to the surface, slow axial drift in the flowing layer, which is inherent to spherical tumblers, is sufficient to drive large particles across nominal transport barriers and into nonmixing islands predicted by an advective flow model in the absence of axial drift. Axial drift alters the periodic dynamics of nonmixing islands, turning them into "sinks"where large particles accumulate even in the presence of collisional diffusion. Overall, our results indicate that weak perturbation of chaotic flow has the potential to alter key dynamical system features (e.g., transport barriers), which ultimately can result in unexpected physical phenomena.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number024902
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability


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