Europhys. Lett.
Volume 71, Number 6, September 2005
Page(s) 932 - 937
Section Electromagnetism, optics, acoustics, heat transfer, classical mechanics, and fluid dynamics
Published online 10 August 2005
Europhys. Lett., 71 (6), pp. 932-937 (2005)
DOI: 10.1209/epl/i2005-10165-4

X-ray observation of micro-failures in granular piles approaching an avalanche

A. Kabla1, G. Debrégeas2, J.-M. di Meglio1, 3 and T. J. Senden1

1  Department of Applied Mathematics, Research School of Physical Sciences and Engineering, The Australian National University - Canberra, Australia
2  LFO-Collège de France, CNRS UMR 7125 - Paris, France
3  MSC, CNRS, Université Paris 7 - Paris, France

received 31 May 2005; accepted 8 July 2005
published online 10 August 2005

An X-ray imaging technique is used to probe the stability of 3-dimensional granular packs in a slowly rotating drum. Well before the surface reaches the avalanche angle, we observe intermittent plastic events associated with collective rearrangements of the grains located in the vicinity of the free surface. The energy released by these discrete events grows as the system approaches the avalanche threshold. By testing various preparation methods, we show that the pre-avalanche dynamics is not solely controlled by the difference between the free surface inclination and the avalanche angle. As a consequence, the measure of the pre-avalanche dynamics is unlikely to serve as a tool for predicting macroscopic avalanches.

45.70.Cc - Static sandpiles; granular compaction.
45.70.Ht - Avalanches.
81.05.Rm - Porous materials; granular materials.

© EDP Sciences 2005