James, Mike R. and Lane, Steve J. and Gilbert, Jennie S. (2003) The density, construction and drag coefficient of electrostatic volcanic ash aggregates. Journal of Geophysical Research - Space Physics, 108. p. 2435. ISSN 0148-0227
Recent laboratory experiments have demonstrated that electrostatic charges generated during the fragmentation of volcanic pumice cause rapid aggregation of the silicate particles produced. Here, we present measurements of the mass and component particle size distribution of individual, electrostatically bound aggregates produced during these experiments. Particles produced by fracturing pumice aggregated as they fell ∼1.5 m within an enclosed fall chamber. Aggregate mass measurements indicate aggregate densities of ∼200 kg m−3 or less. The component particle size analysis demonstrates exponential-type cumulative distributions which are dominated (on a volume basis) by particles ∼10–40 μm in diameter and contain few particles >70 μm. By representing these particles as disks of 5 μm thickness the calculated aggregate densities are in agreement with those derived from the aggregate mass measurements and indicate a relatively constant aggregate density with size (in contrast with previous results from fall velocities). Combining the density measurements with fall velocity data allows the drag coefficient of aggregates to be determined. Empirical equations developed to describe the particle size distribution within aggregates are used to derive relative aggregation coefficients for the electrostatic aggregation process. Our results can be used within numerical models of volcanic plumes in order to improve their representation of electrostatic aggregation processes.
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