Scientists revealed that sand dunes on Titan are electrically charged. Titan is known to be the largest moon of Saturn. A new experiment unveiled more details about Titan’s surface. The new study was published in the Nature Geoscience journal. Experts are trying to find out how come sand dunes on Titan which are 300 feet tall form in the opposite direction of the wind which blows from east to west.
- Researchers at Georgia Tech developed a new experiment regarding Titan’s sand dunes.
- Specialists observed that the wind on Titan blows from east to west but the sand dunes were formed in the opposite direction.
- They demonstrated that only strong winds can shape the sand there because the particles are electrically charged.
Josh Mendez Harper, the lead author of the study and a scientist at Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States, claimed that the electrostatic forces determine a rise in the frictional brinks. He stated that the grains of sand become so cohesive that they are move only by powerful winds. The common winds are not strong enough to shape the dunes.
Researchers developed an experiment in an altered pressure vessel in their lab at Georgia Institute of Technology to test the flow of sand particles under Titan-like conditions. Scientists introduced grains of biphenyl and naphthalene into a cylinder. These two are toxic compounds which bear hydrogen and carbon and are believed to exist on the surface of Titan.
Researchers took the cylinder and rotated it in a pure nitrogen environment for 20 minutes. They chose nitrogen because Titan’s atmosphere is made up of 98% nitrogen. Then, they determined the electric properties of every sand grain which were tumbled out of the cylinder. Mendez stated that all sand particles were electrically charged and 2-5% of the grains did not come out of the cylinder.
They remained inside the tumbler and got stuck together. Mendez argued that they previously underwent the same experiment using volcanic ash and sand but under Earth-like conditions and all the material came out. Mendez explained that the sand on our planet it electrically charges too, but only when it is moved. Nevertheless, the charges are a lot smaller and disappear very quickly.
Based on this study, specialists argue that if we were to build a sand castle on Mars, we would not need water to keep the sand together because it being electrically charged would be enough to keep it together. George McDonald, the co-author of the study and a researcher at Georgia Tech, claimed that granular materials like this one could hold their electrostatic charges for long periods of time in low gravity.
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