Adhesion-force micro-scale study of desiccating granular material
Experiments on five-, four-, three- and two-wet-hydrophilic-grain clusters were performed to investigate evolution of adhesion of granular media during drying on the micro-scale. The experiments show that the adhesion-force of a cluster initially grows at most to three times the original value before decreasing to zero by the end of evaporation. The adhesion-force is composed of capillary pressure force acting over the liquid/solid contact surface area, and surface tension forces acting over the three-phase contact perimeter length. This is in contrast with most macro-scale phenomenological models, in which the only desaturation process variables affecting strength are suction and saturation. Both the contact surface area and contact perimeter length are reduced to zero upon complete liquid evaporation. The morphology of an evaporating water body evolves through slow flow controlled by evaporation rate, interrupted by various modes of fast air entry, which are non-equilibrium jumps of liquid/gas interfaces (Haines jumps). The instabilities involve large adhesion force discontinuities and substantial water mass reconfiguration with water flow in an extremely short time, which makes the process transient. The reconfigurations can reduce the original multi-grain water clusters to four-, three- and two-grain clusters by way of three different instability modes: of thin-sheet instability, or meniscus snap-through instability, depending on the sign of the Gauss curvature of the liquid surface, or finally, for two-grain bridges only, a liquid wire pinch-off. For larger meso-scale assemblies, however, the global adhesion-force evolution is little affected by the jumps. The air entries are potential sites for drying cracks. The (approximately) calculated capillary pressure for two- and three-grain clusters, in no cases is seen to reach high values, predicted from water retention curves.
Hueckel, T; Mielniczuk, B; Elyoussoufi, MS
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