June 30, 2009

Study: Stream of sand behaves like water

University of Chicago researchers have discovered dry granular materials such as sand, seeds and grains have properties similar to liquid.

The physicists from the university's Materials Research Science and Engineering Center said the granular materials form water-like droplets when poured from a given source. The researchers said their finding could be important to a wide range of industries that use fluidized dry particles.

It was previously thought dry particles lacked sufficient surface tension to form droplets like ordinary liquids. But the new study, led by Professor Heinrich Jaeger, used high-speed photography to measure minute levels of surface tension and detects droplet formation in flows of dry granular materials.

The research that included graduate student John Royer is reported in the June 25 issue of the journal Nature.