A World in a Grain of Sand

Magnified Ottowa sand grains

Anyone who’s walked barefoot on the beach knows the feeling of sand compressing and shifting under their feet. In a basic sense, this behavior of sand is what piqued the interest of Professor Khalid Alshibli.

As a geotechnical engineer, Alshibli knows his colleagues are focused mainly on granular materials, work that typically involves collecting samples and performing experiments. With sand, however, there is no underlying theory offering the best solution.

Alshibli and his research team are hoping to change that.

For six years, his research has focused on developing tests to observe, measure, and image the properties of silica grains when different loads are applied to them.

By taking images of silica sand at a size of 0.2mm, the team aims to establish a fundamental theory that will provide a better understanding of the behavior of sand at the macro scale for use across industries, including agriculture and pharmaceuticals.

Read the full story on cee.utk.edu.

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