NSF. Grant Number: EAR-1349115
Geophysical Research Letters
Spectrum analysis, Geological mapping, Earth (Planet) -- Surface
From sediment transport in rivers to landslides, predictions of granular motion rely on a Mohr-Coulomb failure criterion parameterized by a friction angle. Measured friction angles are generally large for single grains, smaller for large numbers of grains, and no theory exists for intermediate numbers of grains. We propose that a continuum of friction angles exists between single-grain and bulk friction angles due to grain-to-grain force chains. Physical experiments, probabilistic modeling, and discrete element modeling demonstrate that friction angles decrease by up to 15° as the number of potentially mobile grains increases from 1 to ~20. Decreased stability occurs as longer force chains more effectively dislodge downslope “keystone” grains, implying that bulk friction angles are set by the statistics of single-grain friction angles. Both angles are distinct from and generally larger than grain contact-point friction, with implications for a variety of sediment transport processes involving small clusters of grains.
Booth, A. M., Hurley, R., Lamb, M. P., & Andrade, J. E. (2014). Force chains as the link between particle and bulk friction angles in granular material. Geophysical Research Letters.