Floccing Particles

Adding particles to a viscous fluid can create unexpected complications, thanks to the interplay of fluid and solid interactions. Here we see a dilute mixture of dark spherical particles suspended in a layer of fluid cushioned between the walls of an inner and outer cylinder. Initially, the particles are evenly distributed, but when the inner cylinder begins to rotate, it shears the fluid layer. Hydrodynamic forces assemble the particles together into loose conglomerates known as flocs. Once the particles form these log-like shapes, they remain stable thanks to the balance between viscous drag on particles and the attractive forces that pull particles toward one another. (Image and research credit: Z. Varga et al.; submitted by Thibaut D.)

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