Description This image captures a familiar beach activity: pouring sand in a heap. When dropped from above, grains of sand pile up, some sliding down the sides of the growing mound, making a relatively uniform heap. Here, millimeter-sized glass spheres are piling up on a much smaller scale. As the material avalanches from the tube above, individual beads fall and bounce radially away from the center. The surface of the heap forms an angle with the horizontal called the angle of repose. Scientists study this angle to understand the unique properties of the granular medium (like its sliding friction and density). Isner and his colleagues in the Ottino/Lueptow laboratory characterize material behavior like this to understand real world particle flows like grain in silos, rocks in avalanches and landslides.
These images stem from cutting-edge research on campus, winning our annual Scientific Images Contest which goes on display in galleries across Chicago.
Through partnerships with schools and community groups, we train Northwestern researchers to share their expertise and creativity in a community centered way. Sales from these images goes to support our education and outreach activities, connecting researchers to the wider community.