Swimming in granular media

Takashi Shimada, Dirk Kadau, Troy Shinbrot, Hans J. Herrmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


A class of reptiles known as sand swimmers adapts to hot environments by submerging beneath desert sands during the day and so provide a unique probe into the dynamics of intruders in granular beds. To understand the mechanism for swimming in an otherwise solid bed, we study a simple model of periodic contraction and extension of large intruders in a granular bed. Using an event-driven simulation, we find optimal conditions that idealized swimmers must use to critically fluidize a sand bed so that it is rigid enough to support a load when needed, but fluid enough to permit motion with minimal resistance. Swimmers-or other intruders-that agitate the bed too rapidly produce large voids that prevent traction from being achieved, while swimmers that move too slowly cannot travel before the bed resolidifies around them, i.e., the swimmers locally probe the fundamental time scale in a granular packing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number020301
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 7 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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