Granular suspension avalanches. I. Macro-viscous behavior
We experimentally studied the flow behavior of a fixed volume of granular suspension, initially contained in a reservoir and released down an inclined flume. Here “granular suspension” refers to a suspension of non-Brownian particles in a viscous fluid. Depending on the solids fraction, density mismatch, and particle size distribution, a wealth of behaviors can be observed. Here we report and interpret results obtained with granular suspensions, which consisted of neutrally buoyant particles with a solids fraction (ϕ = 0.575–0.595) close to the maximum random packing fraction (estimated at ϕm = 0.625). The particles had the same refractive index as the fluid, which made it possible to measure the velocity profiles inside the moving bulk and far from the sidewalls. Additional information such as the front position and the flow depth was also recorded. Three regimes were observed. At early times, the flow features were reminiscent of homogeneous Newtonian fluids (e.g., the same dependence of the front position on time). At later times, the free surface became more and more bumpy as fractures developed within the bulk. This fracture process ultimately gave rise to a stick-slip regime, in which the suspension moved intermittently. In this paper, we focus on the first regime referred to as the macro-viscous regime. Although the bulk flow properties looked like those of Newtonian fluids, the internal dynamics were much richer.