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Cereal Science: Crushing Rice Krispies Reveals New Insight for Materials (VIDEO)

First Posted: Nov 18, 2015 10:11 AM EST
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There's more to cereal than you might think. Scientists have used breakfast cereal to discover a new phenomenon in materials science: highly porous, brittle materials can deform in different ways depending on compaction velocity.

In this latest study, the researchers investigated compaction by using Rice Krispies in an acrylic tube. As a piston crushed the cereal, the experimenter could see the material being compacted. The scientists then used microphones at the bottom and top of the tube in order to record the crushing sounds and identify which parts of the cereal pack would crush when.

Surprisingly, though, the researchers didn't find the crackling pattern that they expected. Instead, the microphones recoded an alternating wave of popping.

Not quite believing their ears, the researchers ran the experiment again, watching it this time. The scientists saw that as the cereal compacted, there was a rising band in the tube, indicating where the material was being crushed, or deformed.

"It was the first time anyone had seen a propagating compaction band in granular matter," said Julio Valdes, one of the researchers, in a news release. "We could see it clearly. It was beautiful."

The researchers then repeated the original experiment with the piston depressing at different velocities. They found that, depending on the velocity, they could see three different types of deformation in the cereal.

The findings explain the complex mechanics underlying porous, brittle material. More specifically, the results could have applications in manufacturing as well as in assessing the stability of snowpack after an avalanche.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Physics.

Want to learn more? Check out the video below, courtesy of YouTube.

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