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With this latest research being published in Physical Review Applied, these findings could one day be used to speed up the decontamination of industrial brownfield sites-which the United Kingdom currently has over 400,000 hectares of.

Dr Sandnes, whose NRN project looks at bridging the gap between fundamental physics and applied engineering and with part funding from the NRN AEM has been able to develop new methods of visualising the microscopic movement of grains in the system, revealing the local compaction of material ahead of the fractures.

The experiments are deceptively simple, with compressed air being injected into narrow glass cells which are tightly packed with sand and saturated with water. Not as straightforward however, are the spectacularly complex structures that appear. As the air cracks the wet sand open, a pattern forms reminiscent of tree branches against a winter sky or the network of blood vessels in the body.

“We study these patterns first and foremost because we are curious to discover what physical mechanisms shape the form and function of these beautiful structures, but also because these processes are important in many natural and industrial systems” - Dr Bjornar Sandnes

One example of this would be when a soil is contaminated and needs cleaning up. In-Situ Chemical Oxidation (ISCO) is a technique where the soil is flooded with a chemical that reacts with the pollutant, and renders it harmless. The problem with ISCO is it takes such a very long time because flows in soils are so slow. By fracturing the soil, high-conductivity pathways can be generated for fluid exchange, speeding up the cleaning process, and reducing cost for the operator.

 

"Thanks to funding from the NRN AEM we were able to develop new methods of visualizing the microscopic movement of grains in the system, revealing the local compaction of material ahead of the fractures."

- Dr Bjornar Sandnes, PI, NRN141

Want to discover more about this research? Watch the film edit on this development by Clicking Here 

 


 

Cracking the Particle Packing

Physics Today

 

NRN141 - Back Scatter.jpgImage courtesy of physicstoday.org (March 2018)

 


Swansea University Helps Revolutionise Soil Research

Business News Wales

Researchers at Swansea University’s Complex Flow Lab have been exploring the intricate shapes that emerge when air is injected into soil. Published in Physical Review Applied, these findings could one day be used to speed up the decontamination of industrial brownfield sites-which the United Kingdom currently has over 400,000 hectares of.

 


 

Swansea University research helps break ground to clean up land

Swansea University

Researchers at Swansea University’s Complex Flow Lab have been exploring the intricate shapes that emerge when air is injected into soil. Published in Physical Review Applied, these findings could one day be used to speed up the decontamination of industrial brownfield sites-which the United Kingdom currently has over 400,000 hectares of.

 


 

Complex Flows, Simple Rules

Physics Central

Seeing bare tree branches silhouetted against a sunset sky is one of the best things about winter. Bereft of leaves, the trees reveal their intricate skeletons—almost fractal, reminiscent of neurons, or the network of blood vessels that perfuse the body.

 


 

Pushing a Fluid into a Porous Granular Material

Fy Fluid Dynamics Blog

Pushing a fluid into a porous granular material can fracture it into branching, lightning-like patterns. Here, air is injected into wet grains as a laboratory analog to hydrocarbon extraction or fracturing to treat contaminated soil. The injection of air compacts grains along the branch boundaries, keeping individual branches separated from one another.

 


 

Images 1,2,3 - Branching tree of cracks created naturally by injecting air into wet sand

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