Research

An Armored Bed

A river’s flow constantly changes its underlying bed. The rocks and particulates beneath a flowing river can typically be divided into two zones: an upper layer called the bed-load zone where the flow moves particles with it and a lower layer where particles are mostly trapped but may creep over long periods. In gravelly river-beds this upper bed-load zone tends to accumulate more large particles, a phenomenon known as armoring. Experiments show that, in this region, large particles have a net vertical velocity moving upward, while smaller particles tend to move downward. Exactly why large particles are more prevalent in the bed-load zone in unknown; several theories have been offered. One suggests that the size segregation is similar to the Brazil nut effect and that smaller particles have a tendency to fall into gaps and sink more easily than larger ones. (Image and research credit: B. Ferdowsi et al., source)

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