Microbial Brazil nut effect†
The Brazil nut effect (BNE) is a counter-intuitive process of segregation of a large object inside a vibrated granular medium (GM), which has been studied widely by subjecting GMs to various kinds of shears and vibrations. In this article, we report a new kind of BNE which occurs as a consequence of granular fluctuations induced by microbe-generated gas bubbles. We call it the ‘microbial Brazil nut effect’. The paper demonstrates microbial BNE for a bidisperse granular mixture as well as for intruder segregation. Furthermore, using X-ray μCT and a simple scaling argument for segregation velocity, the paper clarifies the transport mechanics of an intruder inside a bubbly granular bed. We think the reported phenomenon should be ubiquitous in the microbe-populated wet sandy floors of waterbodies and may have some implication on the distribution of material near the floors.