Monday, May 19, 2008

We make history. I'm not kidding.

We made geomorphic history today. I'm not kidding.

After years of thinking about it and months of research, testing, and working with suppliers, we mixed and ran water through our first color-coded batch of ground melamine plastic media. There are three sizes in this batch; the dark brown is finest, white in the middle, and yellow/orange the coarsest.

Peter Wilcock et al. built a flume with a "bed of many colors" using painted rocks. Paper here. Their work was very successful, but this was a flume study, essentially modeling two dimensions. As far as I know, no researcher has ever used plastic media to model a freely meandering channel as we did today.

Of course we were pretty excited to see the material's behavior, and we weren't disappointed. You could clearly see patterns of sediment erosion, transport, and deposition. Perhaps most striking was the immediate armoring by the yellow material whenever flow energy energy was increased.

The possibilities for research and visualizations are many. Within the next few weeks we'll put 500 pounds of this material in our new Em4, which is 4m long by 1.5m wide. That'll be an even bigger day.

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