How to handle granulates in space ?

graphicalAbstractThe peculiar behavior of granular materials in microgravity is a hard physics problem. In the dilute case, granular gases loose kinetic energy and may form clusters. In order to avoid this “cooling effect”, mechanical energy should be continuously injected in the system. This is exactly the subject of the SpaceGrain project [1] of the European Space Agency (ESA). It has been proven that a dynamical cluster may appear [2] for such driven systems.

Our last paper [3] explores the case of nonequal energy injection in a granular gas, allowing for dynamical cluster motion. It is possible to control the position of a cluster by selecting the right values of the driving parameters. Granular transport becomes therefore possible as shown in the picture.

Applications can be found for exemple in asteroid mining [4], or in building structures in space.

[1] http://www.spacegrains.org
[2] E.Opsomer, F.Ludewig, and N.Vandewalle, Dynamical clustering in driven granular gas, EPL 99, 40001 (2012)
[3] M.Noirhomme, E.Opsomer, N.Vandewalle, F.Ludewig, Granular transport in driven granular gas, Eur. Phys. J. E 38, 9 (2015) – PDF
[4] http://www.planetaryresources.com

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About nicovdw

Professor in Physics
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