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MEAM Seminar: “Granular and Photoelastic Avalanches”

October 24, 2023 at 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM

Flowing granular materials arise everywhere around us, in industry from pharmaceutical processes to bulk good transport lines, and in nature from snow avalanches to captivating dune fields.

In landslides, we have an interesting interplay between microscale (grain-grain contacts) and macroscale processes (continuum behavior). In order to understand critical macroscale processes such as stability of a slope, creep and failure, we need to be able to visualize and characterize the microscale interactions.

In this talk, I will introduce a laboratory technique called photoelasticity to visualize grain-grain contacts in time and space. Collisions between grains create a fascinating network of so-called force chains, which are responsible for the inhomogeneous distribution of stresses in a granular medium. We discover stress distributions in 2D granular avalanches, visualized with bespoke, superior-quality birefringent photoelastic particles. This technique gives us for the first time access to the full velocity, density and stress fields inside of a dynamic avalanche, and allows us to experimentally validate granular rheological models.

Nathalie M. Vriend

Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Colorado at Boulder

Associate Professor Nathalie Vriend joined the University of Colorado Boulder in 2022. Prior to CU Boulder, she spend a 12-year period in the United Kingdom at the University of Cambridge. After a short postdoctoral position (2010 – 2011) and holding a competitive personal postdoctoral fellowship (2011 – 2013) in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP), she started her own research group. Between 2014 and 2022, Nathalie has been group leader and Royal Society Research Fellow, first as a Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow in DAMTP and from 2019 onwards as a University Research Fellow at the BP Institute, both at the University of Cambridge.

Dr. Vriend earned her ingenieurs (B.Sc. + M.Sc.) degree in Mechanical Engineering (2004) from the University of Twente, The Netherlands and her M.Sc. (2005, in Aeronautics) and Ph.D. degree (2010, in Mechanical Engineering and Geophysics) from the California Institute of Technology, USA.

Dr. Vriend leads the Granular Flow Laboratory at CU Boulder. She is an expert in performing detailed laboratory experiments and targeted field work involving particulate flows such as sand and snow. In addition, she also employs numerical simulations and theoretical modelling to complement observations, often in collaboration with scientists from multidisciplinary fields. She has active projects in granular rheology and avalanching, and dune structure and migration. In the past she worked on the dynamics of real snow avalanches, singing sand dunes, silo honking, and seismic wave propagation.


October 24, 2023
10:00 AM - 11:30 AM
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Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics
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Wu and Chen Auditorium (Room 101), Levine Hall
3330 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104 United States
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