Dr James Baker

PhD (University of Manchester)
Postdoctoral Research Associate
School of Civil Engineering

J05 - J05 Civil Engineering Building
The University of Sydney

Telephone +61 2 9036 6385

Website School of Civil Engineering

SciGEM

Biographical details

Dr James Baker obtained a Master of Mathematics degree from the University of Oxford and PhD from the University of Manchester, before joining the Sydney Centre in Geomechanics and Mining Materials (SciGEM) in 2016. His research uses a combination of mathematical theory, numerical simulations and laboratory experiments to gain an understanding into the rich and diverse behaviour of granular media.

Research interests

Granular materials are those that consist of collections of individual particles - for example, sand, snow, cereal grains and pharmaceutical powders. Dr James Baker researches how these materials behave when their particles flow en masse - such as when a bucket of sand is poured out like a liquid. His work will improve our ability to safely plan for landslides and avalanches, and to efficiently process foods and pharmaceutical products, among other applications.

"We have a good grasp of how regular liquids, such as water, flow but granular materials are less well understood, despite their prevalence.

"For example, in a typical avalanche, some particles may remain stationary and act like a solid, some may flow like a liquid, and some may bounce around like a gas. Such rich behaviour makes physical modelling difficult, and things are further complicated by the presence of particles of various sizes, shapes and materials, all of which influence the flow in different ways.

"I'm trying to improve our fundamental understanding of these granular processes. This will enhance our ability to predict the path of natural hazards such as landslides, avalanches and lava flows, and hence assess what infrastructure may be affected and what damage may result. This in turn will allow us to better design and plan for risk mitigation.

"Flowing and mixing of granular materials is also relevant to many industrial operations, including food processing, fabrication of pharmaceuticals and mining of minerals. So a better understanding here will enable us to manipulate grains more precisely in order to improve efficiency and quality.

"I first got into this area because I was intrigued by natural processes such as landslides, avalanches and volcanic eruptions. But I quickly realised that grains are everywhere, and that the fundamental techniques and understandings I was acquiring could equally be applied to all sorts of interesting scenarios.

"I've been with the University of Sydney since 2016. The novel X-ray facility, DynamiX, that our group here is developing is particularly exciting because it allows us to see inside granular materials as they move, offering a completely new perspective to my research. The whole team here are great, bringing a range of skills from very diverse backgrounds."

In the media

    Selected publications

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    Journals

    • Viroulet, S., Baker, J., Edwards, A., Johnson, C., Gjaltema, C., Clavel, P., Gray, N. (2017). Multiple solutions for granular flow over a smooth two-dimensional bump. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 815, 77-116. [More Information]
    • Baker, J., Barker, T., Gray, N. (2016). A two-dimensional depth-averaged u(I)-rheology for dense granular avalanches. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 787, 367-395. [More Information]
    • Baker, J., Gray, N., Kokelaar, P. (2016). Particle size-segregation and spontaneous levee formation in geophysical granular flows. International Journal of Erosion Control Engineering, 9(4), 174-178.
    • Baker, J., Johnson, C., Gray, N. (2016). Segregation-induced finger formation in granular free-surface flows. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 809, 168-212. [More Information]

    2017

    • Viroulet, S., Baker, J., Edwards, A., Johnson, C., Gjaltema, C., Clavel, P., Gray, N. (2017). Multiple solutions for granular flow over a smooth two-dimensional bump. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 815, 77-116. [More Information]

    2016

    • Baker, J., Barker, T., Gray, N. (2016). A two-dimensional depth-averaged u(I)-rheology for dense granular avalanches. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 787, 367-395. [More Information]
    • Baker, J., Gray, N., Kokelaar, P. (2016). Particle size-segregation and spontaneous levee formation in geophysical granular flows. International Journal of Erosion Control Engineering, 9(4), 174-178.
    • Baker, J., Johnson, C., Gray, N. (2016). Segregation-induced finger formation in granular free-surface flows. Journal of Fluid Mechanics, 809, 168-212. [More Information]

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