Sibley School Seminars: Michel Louge: Mobile sand dunes - silent travelers of the desert


B11 Kimball Hall


Mobile sand dunes - silent travelers of the desert
Michel Louge
Cornell University, Professor Emeritus-Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Mobile sand dunes are common features of hyper-arid deserts. Relentlessly pushed by wind, they encroach on human infrastructure and natural environments. While much research has been devoted to the dunes' exterior, their internal porous state, hidden from view, has mainly elicited excavations of a complicated stratigraphy. In our work, we deployed unique instruments and techniques aimed at understanding how mobile sands retain moisture, exchange heat, and are moved by wind. Our motivation is to appreciate how microbes and other life forms survive under extreme desert conditions, and to inform strategies for their stabilization. In this context, we conducted field work in the Sahara and Qatar deserts. The results inspired new approaches for heat transfer, moisture exchange, capillary phenomena, evaporation, and aeolian transport. The instruments and models also lent insight to subjects as diverse as alpine snow packs and pharmaceutical manufacturing.



Michel Louge joined Cornell University in 1985 after earning a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University and working for Shell in the Netherlands. His research has contributed to chemical kinetics, circulating fluidized beds, pneumatic transport, particle impact, gas-solid heat transfer, granular flows down inclines, granular segregation, heat and mass transfer through desert sands, powder snow avalanches and, more recently, fluid imbibition into unsaturated porous media and the hysteretic behavior of the triple gas-solid-liquid contact line. His group has developed capacitance instrumentation that records solid concentration, velocity and water content in snow avalanches, fluidized suspensions, sand dunes and alpine snow packs. Applications of his research are found in Chemical Engineering, Pharmacy and Geophysics. His experimental facilities have included a circulating fluidized bed, a large inclined chute, a flume, and a setup to record restitution and friction in the impacts of small spheres. His field experiments have been conducted on NASA's microgravity airplane, on the International Space Station, in deserts, and in mountains. He served as Visiting Professor at the University of Rennes, CentraleSupelec in Paris, Tsinghua University in Beijing, VinUniversity in Hanoi, and the University of Nottingham in the UK. He has been an Associate Editor of the Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface since 2014. He collaborates with Merck, a global pharmaceutical company, on instrumentation for powder processes, and serves as consultant for the International Fine Particle Research Institute, a consortium of leading companies in Powder Technology.

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