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What research field is concerned with the mechanics of sand?

  1. Jul 13, 2016 #1
    I am interested in conducting a research project involving the design of a tool to aid astronauts to perform experiments on lunar surfaces (for the NASA Micro-g NExT student challenge), but I do not know appropriate key words or questions to ask to begin my research. The specific scenario of focus is to design a tool that can act as an anchor in a sand-like medium (regolith) on the surface of the moon; therefore, maximizing the resistance of the tool while buried underneath the sand is the principle goal. Is this design problem related to fluid mechanics, and if so, what sub-discipline of fluid mechanics is concerned with modelling the behavior of dry, granular media such as sand? Are there any specific disciplines or key-words within astrophysics that are closely related to this question? My initial concept is to design a type of drill that can lodge itself into the sand; considering this concept, what are some important variables to consider (i.e. weight of the tool, surface area of the drill, etc.)?
     
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  3. Jul 13, 2016 #2

    billy_joule

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  4. Jul 13, 2016 #3

    symbolipoint

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    An engineer or physicist should tell which that is, but I believe Mechanical Engineering and the study of Granular Matter/ Granular Materials., Granular Dynamics/Granular Mechanics.
     
  5. Jul 13, 2016 #4

    boneh3ad

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    I think it's more typically civil engineering, actually.
     
  6. Jul 13, 2016 #5

    ZapperZ

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    You may also want to look at the field called "Soft Condensed Matter Physics".

    Zz.
     
  7. Jul 13, 2016 #6

    pasmith

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    I don't think detailed consideration of the structure and motion of snow or sand (or soil), which is what the science of granular media is concerned with, should be your principal focus.

    I think your research project starts with what is already used on Earth to anchor things in sand or snow or soil (such as this) and addresses such questions as whether it can actually be transported to the moon and operated by an astronaut wearing a spacesuit once it gets there, and whether low gravity or absence of atmosphere (both of which will tend to reduce the turning moments which your anchor must resist as compared with Earth) will require adaptations. If an existing commercial off-the-shelf product will work then that saves NASA the cost of developing something bespoke.
     
  8. Jul 14, 2016 #7

    Andy Resnick

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    Aside from engineering approaches already mentioned, soft matter physics (as ZapperZ mentioned) is the catch-all phrase for granular and related materials (foams, colloids, emulsions, etc).

    Think broadly- this project may be relevant:
    http://iopscience.iop.org/article/1...07A2BD98188724BF293.c3.iopscience.cld.iop.org
     
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