Large-scale numerical simulations of polydisperse particle flow in a silo
Very recently, we have examined experimentally and numerically the micro-mechanical details of monodisperse particle flows through an orifice placed at the bottom of a silo (Rubio-Largo et al. in Phys Rev Lett 114:238002, 2015). Our findings disentangled the paradoxical ideas associated to the free-fall arch concept, which has historically served to justify the dependence of the flow rate on the outlet size. In this work, we generalize those findings examining large-scale polydisperse particle flows in silos. In the range of studied apertures, both velocity and density profiles at the aperture are self-similar, and the obtained scaling functions confirm that the relevant scale of the problem is the size of the aperture. Moreover, we find that the contact stress monotonically decreases when the particles approach the exit and vanish at the outlet. The behavior of this magnitude is practically independent of the size of the orifice. However, the total and partial kinetic stress profiles suggest that the outlet size controls the propagation of the velocity fluctuations inside the silo. Examining this magnitude, we conclusively argue that indeed there is a well-defined transition region where the particle flow changes its nature. The general trend of the partial kinetic pressure profiles and the location of the transition region results the same for all particle types. We find that the partial kinetic stress is larger for bigger particles. However, the small particles carry a higher fraction of kinetic stress respect to their concentration, which suggest that the small particles have larger velocity fluctuations than the large ones and showing lower strength of correlation with the global flow. Our outcomes explain why the free-fall arch picture has served to describe the polydisperse flow rate in the discharge of silos.