New X-ray points to technological applications on wide-ranging industries: Aussie research

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SYDNEY, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Australian scientists said they had developed a new X-ray method to see inside granular flows, pointing to technological applications in sectors ranging from farming and food production to transport and mining.

"Imagine coffee in grinders, rice in silos, and minerals on conveyors. For a long time, we've known that the grains hidden within the bulk move, but until now we have not understood precisely how. Our X-ray rheography is the first physical method to resolve this," civil engineering professor Itai Einav from the University of Sydney said in a statement about the research late on Friday.

The researchers said that their new technique gathers information via three-point high-speed radiography before assembling it, much like solving a Sudoku number-placement puzzle. The method allows them to form a 3D image of moving grains to better understand how particles flow and behave in various circumstances.

"Unlike fluids, we discovered that confined, three-dimensional steady granular flows arise through cycles of contraction and expansion. We also found that grains tend to travel along parallel lines, even near curved boundaries," the professor said.

The team also found that shape is an important factor in determining flow. For example, elongated barley grains move faster than their spherical counterparts, while different types of grains may tend to group together, much like when emptying a cereal box.

Moreover, the findings can be applied to a number of industries, such as helping develop better silo solutions for edible grains, preventing wastage and spoilage in farming and large-scale food manufacturing, as well as more efficient transportation and storage of mining resources, according to the researchers.

"Until now, understanding granular movements in opaque materials has long been a challenge for many industries such as engineering, science, mining and even agriculture," university researcher Dr. James Baker said.

"The potential benefits span many areas, whether it be in understanding the mixing of pharmaceutical powders or the efficient transport of food grains or construction materials, " the researcher said.

Their study was published in scientific journal Nature Communications. Enditem

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