Resolving a paradox of anomalous scalings in the diffusion of granular materials

Ivan C. Christov, Howard A. Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Granular materials do not perform Brownian motion, yet diffusion can be observed in such systems when agitation causes inelastic collisions between particles. It has been suggested that axial diffusion of granular matter in a rotating drum might be "anomalous"in the sense that the mean squared displacement of particles follows a power law in time with exponent less than unity. Further numerical and experimental studies have been unable to definitively confirm or disprove this observation. We show two possible resolutions to this apparent paradox without the need to appeal to anomalous diffusion. First, we consider the evolution of arbitrary (non-point-source) initial data towards the self-similar intermediate asymptotics of diffusion by deriving an analytical expression for the instantaneous collapse exponent of the macroscopic concentration profiles. Second, we account for the concentration-dependent diffusivity in bidisperse mixtures, and we give an asymptotic argument for the self-similar behavior of such a diffusion process, for which an exact self-similar analytical solution does not exist. The theoretical arguments are verified through numerical simulations of the governing partial differential equations, showing that concentration-dependent diffusivity leads to two intermediate asymptotic regimes: one with an anomalous scaling that matches the experimental observations for naturally polydisperse granular materials, and another with a "normal" diffusive scaling (consistent with a "normal" random walk) at even longer times.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16012-16017
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number40
StatePublished - Oct 2 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Granular flow
  • Transport processes


Dive into the research topics of 'Resolving a paradox of anomalous scalings in the diffusion of granular materials'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this