Granular Plugs

Imagine filling a narrow tube with a mixture of water and tiny glass beads. Then take a syringe and very slowly start drawing out the water. As the water gets sucked out of the tube, air will be pulled into the opposite end. The meniscus where the air and water meet sweeps up the glass beads like a liquid bulldozer. As the experiment continues, pressure builds up and air starts filtering through the beads, changing the viscous and frictional forces the system experiences. Eventually, the grains break off, leaving a chunk of glass beads – known as a plug – behind. Keep draining the tube and more plugs form. Check out the video below to see it in action! (Image/video credit: G. Dumazer et al., source; research paper; open synopsis; submitted by B. Sandnes)

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