Asymmetric breaking size-segregation waves in dense granular free-surface flows

P. Gajjar*, K. Van Der Vaart, A. R. Thornton, Chris G Johnson, Ch Ancey, J.M.N.T. Gray

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    21 Citations (Scopus)
    81 Downloads (Pure)


    Debris and pyroclastic flows often have bouldery flow fronts, which act as a natural dam resisting further advance. Counter intuitively, these resistive fronts can lead to enhanced run-out, because they can be shouldered aside to form static levees that self-channelise the flow. At the heart of this behaviour is the inherent process of size segregation, with different sized particles readily separating into distinct vertical layers through a combination of kinetic sieving and squeeze expulsion. The result is an upward coarsening of the size distribution with the largest grains collecting at the top of the flow, where the flow velocity is greatest, allowing them to be preferentially transported to the front. Here, the large grains may be overrun, resegregated towards the surface and recirculated before being shouldered aside into lateral levees. A key element of this recirculation mechanism is the formation of a breaking size-segregation wave, which allows large particles that have been overrun to rise up into the faster moving parts of the flow as small particles are sheared over the top. Observations from experiments and discrete particle simulations in a moving-bed flume indicate that, whilst most large particles recirculate quickly at the front, a few recirculate very slowly through regions of many small particles at the rear. This behaviour is modelled in this paper using asymmetric segregation flux functions. Exact non-diffuse solutions are derived for the steady wave structure using the method of characteristics with a cubic segregation flux. Three different structures emerge, dependent on the degree of asymmetry and the non-convexity of the segregation flux function. In particular, a novel 'lens-tail' solution is found for segregation fluxes that have a large amount of non-convexity, with an additional expansion fan and compression wave forming a 'tail' upstream of the 'lens' region. Analysis of exact solutions for the particle motion shows that the large particle motion through the 'lens-tail' is fundamentally different to the classical 'lens' solutions. A few large particles starting near the bottom of the breaking wave pass through the 'tail', where they travel in a region of many small particles with a very small vertical velocity, and take significantly longer to recirculate.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)460-505
    Number of pages46
    JournalJournal of fluid mechanics
    Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2016


    • granular media
    • mixing
    • pattern formation


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