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ABSTRACT

Experiments demonstrate that fluid escape structures can be produced as a result of unstable fluidization behaviour where a lower base layer of granular material is inhibited from fluidizing by the presence of an overlying non-fluidizing top layer. Before the base layer can fluidize the weight of the overlying material must be balanced, and this is accomplished by base layer material pressing against the bottom surface of the confining top layer forming a static layer. This static layer allows the top layer to lift away from the base layer which is then free to fluidize. A water-filled crack forms below the static layer and, as this grows, instability causes the static layer and top layer to bend and conical voids to form below the antiformal sections. Rupture occurs at the apex of the water void, allowing the underlying water and fluidizing material to burst out through the top layer. The fluidized base layer material then flows through the rupture until all of this material, except that in the static layer, is deposited above the previously overlying layer and a stable fluidization system results. The top layer material is bent upwards around the rupture, and the resulting pillar-type escape structure is preserved if flow then ceases. The vigour of the burst-out is greatest when the base layer material has a grain size 15% of the top layer material. If the base layer grain size is less than 8% of the top layer then base layer material will pass through the top layer pore spaces, without forming an escape structure. If cohesive material is present, escape structures form when a layer of fine grained cohesive material overlies a layer of cohesionless material. At low flow rates small pipes with scattered angular bends pierce the top layer, and base layer material passes through them. The base layer material is ejected on to the top layer and builds up around the mouth of each pipe to form constructional structures, sand volcanoes. This is in contrast to the cohesionless experiments, where the weight of material being deposited on the top layer caused an ejecta-filled depression to form around the rupture. If flow then ceases both the pipes and the sand volcanoes are preserved. At high flow rates, where the base layer fluidizes, the top cohesive layer becomes fragmented. Small fragments circulate within the fluidizing base layer and are preserved as floating clasts. Large fragments sink to the bottom of the fluidizing base layer. Erosion of the bottom surface of these larger fragments causes this surface to become convex downward. The experimentally derived structures are similar to pillar-type structures observed in the field and the processes described can be used to investigate the development of these structures. Fluidization experiments also demonstrate the genesis of dish structures, and the cohesive behaviour can be applied to the deformation of these structures after initial formation.