If granular materials comprising particles of identical material but different sizes are sheared in the presence of a gravitational field, the particles are segregated according to size. The small particles fall to the bottom and the larger ones drift to the top of the sheared layer. In an attempt to isolate and study some of the essential segregation mechanisms, the paper considers a simplified problem involving the steady two-dimensional flow of a binary mixture of small and large spherical particles flowing down a roughened inclined chute. The flow is assumed to take place in layers that are in motion relative to one another as a result of the mean shear. For relatively slow flows, it is proposed that there are two main mechanisms responsible for the transfer of particles between layers. The first mechanism, termed the ‘random fluctuating sieve’, is a gravity-induced, size-dependent, void-filling mechanism. The probability of capture of a particle in one layer by a randomly generated void space in the underlying layer is calculated as a function of the relative motion of the two layers. The second, termed the ‘squeeze expulsion’ mechanism, is due to imbalances in contact forces on an individual particle which squeeze it out of its own layer into an adjacent one. It is assumed that this mechanism is not size preferential and that there is no inherent preferential direction for the layer transfer. This second physical mechanism in particular was proposed on the basis of observations of video recordings that were played back at slow speed. Since the magnitude of its contribution is determined by the satisfaction of overall mass conservation, the exact physical nature of the mechanism is of less importance. By combining these two proposed mechanisms the net percolation velocity of each species is obtained. The mass conservation equation for fines is solved by the method of characteristics to obtain the development of concentration profiles with downstream distance. Although the theory involves a number of empirical constants, their magnitude can be estimated with a fair degree of accuracy. A solution for the limiting case of dilute concentration of fine particles and a more general solution for arbitrary concentrations are presented. The analyses are compared with experiments which measured the development of concentration profiles during the flow of a binary mixture of coarse and fine particles down a roughened inclined chute. Reasonable agreement is found between the measured and predicted concentration profiles and the distance required for the complete separation of fine from coarse particles.
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