Mapping fluid migration in granular flows

PhD / Long term visitor's project

This project seeks to develop a revolutionary understanding of the migration of fluids in partially saturated granular flows. These flows are observed in many situations, for example debris flows, wet snow avalanches, wet agglomeration processing, and industrial drying operations. Due to the complexity of these flows, very little is known about their internal structure. We do not yet possess the experimental tools to probe the interior of these materials as they flow, and so our probing is typically limited to numerical simulation to reveal their secrets.


Here, we propose to develop the first robust experimental measurement technique which is able to discriminate between grains and fluid during flow whilst capturing their kinematics separately.


This breakthrough is possible because of separate recent developments in both Sydney, Australia (at the DynamiX X-ray facility) and in Grenoble, France (at the NeXT Neutron/X-ray Imaging facility). As part of the project, measurements are made at these facilities and will be used to formulate new models for the migration of water in partially saturated flowing materials. As a result of a decade-long effort at The Sydney Centre in Geomechanics and Mining Materials at The University of Sydney to numerically simulate this problem, we now have the tools, knowledge and skills to take this missing ingredient – experimental validation – and use it to propose a robust analytical model to predict the behaviour of partially saturated granular flows.


The outcomes of the project will include (1) a new experimental technique, (2) an open source set of software which implements this new technique, and (3) a high resolution, high quality dataset that is publicly available.


  • PI: Benjamin Marks (Visitor)
  • Co-PI: Gioacchino Viggiani, Alessandro Tengattini, Edward Andó and Thierry Faug
  • PhD student:


  • Sydney Centre in Geomechanics and Mining Materials (University of Sydney, Australia)
  • 3SR
  • INRAE Grenoble


  • Tec21
  • University of Sydney