Pressure evolution and deformation of confined granular media during pneumatic fracturing
Physical review. E
By means of digital image correlation, we experimentally characterize the deformation of a dry granular medium confined inside a Hele-Shaw cell due to air injection at a constant overpressure high enough to deform it (from 50 to 250 kPa). Air injection at these overpressures leads to the formation of so called pneumatic fractures, i.e. channels empty of beads, and we discuss the typical deformations of the medium surrounding these structures. In addition we simulate the diffusion of the fluid
... sion of the fluid overpressure into the medium, comparing it with the Laplacian solution over time, and relating pressure gradients with corresponding granular displacements. In the compacting medium we show that the diffusing pressure field becomes similar to the Laplace solution on the order of a characteristic time given by properties of the pore fluid, granular medium and the system size. However, before the diffusing pressure approaches the Laplace solution on system scale, we find that it resembles the Laplacian field near the channels, with the highest pressure gradients on the most advanced channel tips and a screened pressure gradient behind them. We show that the granular displacements more or less always move in the direction against the local pressure gradients, and when comparing granular velocities with pressure gradients in the zone ahead of channels, we observe a Bingham type of rheology for the granular paste (the mix of air and beads), with an effective viscosity $\mu\_B$ and displacement thresholds $\nabla P\_c$ evolving during mobilization and compaction of the medium. Such a rheology, with disorder in the displacement thresholds, could be responsible for placing the pattern growth at moderate injection pressures in a universality class like the Dielectric Breakdown Model with $\eta=2$, where fractal dimensions are found between 1.5 and 1.6 for the patterns.