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Flows of Granular Solids and Gases

Our work focuses on fundamental studies of granular and gas-solid flows with geophysical and industrial applications. We perform laboratory and field experiments, create numerical simulations, model fluid mechanics and heat transfer in these flows, and develop new instrumentation.


Hardware for our experiment on Inertial Spreading and Imbibition of a Liquid Drop through a Porous Surface (ISPS) has launched aboard the S.S. Alan Bean NG-12 spacecraft from Wallops Island on November 2, 2019, and berthed on the International Space Station on November 4. On December 10, ISS Commander Luca Parmitano successfully set up ISPS hardware in the Microgravity Science Glovebox of the International Space Station. He carried out imbibition tests with water spheres on December 11. Details are found in our page on Unsaturated Porous Media. This Cornell Chronicle article provides context.

We developed and published a new statistical mechanics framework for predicting the behavior of unsaturated porous media from known geometry and surface energy. The article is open-access with Phys. Rev. E. We published another article predicting the regimes of behavior of the advancing and receding contact angle using elements of statistical mechanics. Here is a presentation at Interpore 2017 summarizing these results.

A recently published open access paper documents the unique properties of inclined flows on a dissipative base, such as on the avalanche face of a sand dune.

Blog on our desert dune project, including expeditions to Mauritania (March 2010 and January 2011) and Qatar (March, June and November 2011, January, April, July, November 2012, April 2013, January, April 2014, January 2015, 2016 and 2017, and May 2017).

For more information, contact Michel Louge at


Our research has contributed to subjects as diverse as the scale-up of circulating fluidized beds under atmospheric and pressurized conditions; the behavior of pressurized cyclone separators; the interactions of gas and solid particles in pneumatic transport of particles; the impact of small solid spheres; the heat transfer in suspensions of gases and agitated solids; flows of grains on inclines; segregation and flow of grains in microgravity; mechanisms of particle interactions in confined agitated granular media; the water budget, dust inoculation, and seepage through desert sand dunes; "eruption currents," which include powder snow avalanches; and unsaturated porous media.

We have also developed capacitance instrumentation that records solid concentration, velocity and water content in snow avalanches, fluidized suspensions, sand dunes and alpine snow packs

Applications of this research are found in Chemical Engineering (e.g., catalytic cracking, solids transport, solid combustion) and Geophysics (e.g., snow avalanches, desertification). Our experimental facilities have included a circulating fluidized bed, a large inclined chute, a flume, and a unique setup to record restitution and friction in the impacts of small spheres.

We conducted field experiments on NASA's microgravity airplane, at the ZARM free-fall tower in Bremen, in the Sahara desert, and in mountains.


Michel Louge measures the density of sand at the surface of a barchan sand dune near Akjoujt in Mauritania.

Collaborators and Sponsors

We collaborate with the Universite de Rennes, the University of Nottingham, the Universite de Nantes, the Weill-Cornell Medical College in Qatar, the Biotechnology Centre of the Qatar Ministry of Environment, Maersk Oil in Qatar, the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Tencate Geosynthetics, the Laboratoire 3SR of the Universite de Grenoble, DAMTP at the University of Cambridge, and the LGPM laboratory of the CentraleSupelec in Paris. Sponsors have included the NSF, the US DoE, NASA, ARO, Electricite de France, the International Fine Particle Research Institute, the ACS Petroleum Research Fund and the Qatar National Research Foundation.