A Caltech Library Service

Grain flow as a fluid-mechanical phenomenon

Haff, P. K. (1983) Grain flow as a fluid-mechanical phenomenon. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 134 . pp. 401-430. ISSN 0022-1120. doi:10.1017/S0022112083003419.

PDF - Published Version
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


The behaviour of granular material in motion is studied from a continuum point of view. Insofar as possible, individual grains are treated as the ‘molecules’ of a granular ‘fluid’. Besides the obvious contrast in shape, size and mass, a key difference between true molecules and grains is that collisions of the latter are inevitably inelastic. This, together with the fact that the fluctuation velocity may be comparable to the flow velocity, necessitates explicit incorporation of the energy equation, in addition to the continuity and momentum equations, into the theoretical description. Simple ‘microscopic’ kinetic models are invoked for deriving expressions for the ‘coefficients’ of viscosity, thermal diffusivity and energy absorption due to collisions. The ‘coefficients’ are not constants, but are functions of the local state of the medium, and therefore depend on the local ‘temperature’ and density. In general the resulting equations are nonlinear and coupled. However, in the limit s « d, where s is the mean separation between neighbouring grain surfaces and d is a grain diameter, the above equations become linear and can be solved analytically. An important dependent variable, in this formulation, in addition to the flow velocity u, is the mean random fluctuation (‘thermal’) velocity v of an individual grain. With a sufficient flux of energy supplied to the system through the boundaries of the container, v can remain non-zero even in the absence of flow. The existence of a non-uniform v is the means by which energy can be ‘conducted’ from one part of the system to another. Because grain collisions are inelastic, there is a natural (damping) lengthscale, governed by the value of d, which strongly influences the functional dependence of v on position. Several illustrative examples of static (u = 0) systems are solved. As an example of grain flow, various Couette-type problems are solved analytically. The pressure, shear stress, and ‘thermal’ velocity function v are all determined by the relative plate velocity U (and the boundary conditions). If v is set equal to zero at both plates, the pressure and stress are both proportional to U^2, i.e. the fluid is non-Newtonian. However, if sufficient energy is supplied externally through the walls (v ≠ 0 there), then the forces become proportional to the first power of U. Some examples of Couette flow are given which emphasize the large effect on the grain system properties of even a tiny amount of inelasticity in grain–grain collisions. From these calculations it is suggested that, for the case of Couette flow, the flow of sand is supersonic over most of the region between the confining plates.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription
Additional Information:© 1983 Cambridge University Press. Received 26 February 1982 and in revised form 7 April 1983. Published online: 20 April 2006. Many of the results of this paper sprang from discussions with C. E. Brennen, S. E. Koonin, R. Shreve, T. A. Tombrello and C. C. Watson. Partial support was provided by the National Science Foundation (PHY79-23638).
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20120712-123405855
Persistent URL:
Official Citation: P. K. Haff (1983). Grain flow as a fluid-mechanical phenomenon. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 134 , pp 401-430 doi:10.1017/S0022112083003419
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:32390
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:13 Jul 2012 17:03
Last Modified:09 Nov 2021 21:27

Repository Staff Only: item control page