Breaking Up Falling Beads

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In a stream of falling liquid, surface tension instabilities cause the fluid to break up into droplets. This video shows a similar experiment with a stream of glass beads, a granular material. The whole system is housed under a vacuum to eliminate the effects of air drag on the stream, and a camera rides alongside the stream to track the evolution of the falling material in a Lagrangian fashion. As with a liquid stream, we see the granular flow develop undulations as it falls, ultimately breaking up into clusters of beads. The authors suggest that nanoscale surface roughness and van der Waals forces may be responsible for the clustering behavior in the absence of surface tension. (Video credit: J. Royer et al.)

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