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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.

Alexandre Valance and Michel Louge co-edited a special issue of Compte-Rendus Physique, the journal of the French Academy of Sciences, on Granular Physics.

A recent open access paper on temperature and humidity measurements within a mobile desert sand dune demarcates regions where microbes can survive and reports microscopic and respiration evidence of their presence.

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

Jin Xu worked with Theis Solling at the Maersk Oil Research and Technology Center in Doha, Qatar carrying out CT scans of water and particles in July 2014.

Nathalie Vriend, Matthew Arran, Anil Netravali, Anthony Hay, Thomas McKay, Anushree Acharya, Sullen Qassim, Ali Sultan, and Michel and Nadine Louge conducted GPR measurements and surveyed a large dune in Qatar in January 2015.

Jin Xu and Michel Louge recently developed a new statistical mechanics framework for predicting the retention characteristics of unsaturated porous media like fuel cells, soils or oil reservoirs from pore geometry and surface energies.

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, 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.