Photoelastic study of dense granular free-surface flows.
In this study, we perform experiments that reveal the distribution of dynamic forces in the bulk of granular free-surface flows. We release photoelastic disks from an incline to create steady two-dimensional avalanches. These gravity-driven dry granular flows are in the slow to intermediate regime (I≤1), dense (φ≈0.8), and thin (h≈10d). The transition between solidlike (quasisteady) and fluidlike (inertial) regimes is observable for certain experimental settings. We measure constant density and quasilinear velocity profiles through particle tracking at several points down the chute, for two different basal topographies. The photoelastic technique allows the visualization and quantification of instantaneous forces transmitted between particles during individual collisions. From the measured forces we obtain coarse-grained profiles of all stress tensor components at various positions along the chute. The discreteness of the system leads to highly fluctuating individual force chains which form preferentially in the directions of the bulk external forces: in this case, gravity and shear. The behavior of the coarse-grained stress tensor within a dynamic granular flow is analogous to that of a continuous fluid flow, in that we observe a hydrostatic increase of the mean pressure with depth. Furthermore, we identify a preferential direction for the principal stress orientation, which depends on the local magnitudes of the frictional and gravitational forces. These results allow us to draw an analogy between discrete and continuous flow models.