September 26, 2023

Scientists Invent Special Sand

It is universally understood that grains of sand are inclined to roll downhill, thanks to gravity – however, this fact may change, thanks to the scientists from Lehigh University (LU) in Pennsylvania, USA.

A research team made the accidental discovery when study lead, Dr Samuel Wilson-Whitford, noticed how iron-coated polymer grains moved in a vial when a magnet was held nearby.

In a statement released via the University’s website last Wednesday, 20 September, study co-lead, Professor James Gilchrist, explained that after utilising fluid dynamic mathematics, they were able to demonstrate that the material was “moving like a granular material, except [it was] flowing uphill.”

“To understand how these grains are flowing uphill, we calculated what the stresses are that cause them to move in that direction … These granular flow equations were never derived to consider these things,” he continued.

After making several amendments to their calculations – and renaming the granules to “microrollers” – the LU scientists then experimented with different conditions.

What they uncovered is that applied magnetic torque made the microrollers rotate around their individual axes, creating a temporary cohesion and allowing the particles to climb up slopes.

The research carries major potential in the fields of medicine and construction, but it is still early days yet.