Segregation-induced fingering instabilities in granular free-surface flows

M.J. Woodhouse, Anthony Richard Thornton, C.G. Johnson, B.P. Kokelaar, J.M.N.T. Gray

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    44 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Particle-size segregation can have a significant feedback on the bulk motion of granular avalanches when the larger grains experience greater resistance to motion than the fine grains. When such segregation-mobility feedback effects occur the flow may form digitate lobate fingers or spontaneously self-channelize to form lateral levees that enhance run-out distance. This is particularly important in geophysical mass flows, such as pyroclastic currents, snow avalanches and debris flows, where run-out distance is of crucial importance in hazards assessment. A model for finger formation in a bidisperse granular avalanche is developed by coupling a depth-averaged description of the preferential transport of large particles towards the front with an established avalanche model. The coupling is achieved through a concentration-dependent friction coefficient, which results in a system of non-strictly hyperbolic equations. We compute numerical solutions to the flow of a bidisperse mixture of small mobile particles and larger more resistive grains down an inclined chute. The numerical results demonstrate that our model is able to describe the formation of a front rich in large particles, the instability of this front and the subsequent evolution of elongated fingers bounded by large-rich lateral levees, as observed in small-scale laboratory experiments. However, our numerical results are grid dependent, with the number of fingers increasing as the numerical resolution is increased. We investigate this pathology by examining the linear stability of a steady uniform flow, which shows that arbitrarily small wavelength perturbations grow exponentially quickly. Furthermore, we find that on a curve in parameter space the growth rate is unbounded above as the wavelength of perturbations is decreased and so the system of equations on this curve is ill-posed. This indicates that the model captures the physical mechanisms that drive the instability, but additional dissipation mechanisms, such as those considered in the realm of flow rheology, are required to set the length scale of the fingers that develop.
    Original languageUndefined
    Pages (from-to)543-580
    Number of pages38
    JournalJournal of fluid mechanics
    Volume709
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012

    Keywords

    • EWI-23040
    • Instability
    • IR-84152
    • Shallow water flows
    • METIS-294494
    • Granular media

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