The Brazil Nut Effect

The brazil nut effect — in reverse | Nature

Ever open a can of mixed fancy nuts, and find all the Brazil nuts on the top, with all the tasty nuts on the bottom? This is popularly called “The Brazil Nut Effect.” People usually think that the largest and heaviest nuts should be on the bottom of the can. That’s not the case, though/

The Brazil nut effect has a more formal and rather dull name, granular convection. It’s characteristic of granular materials when the “grains” are of varying sizes. 

In a can of mixed nuts, the grains are the nuts, ranging in size from small peanuts through larger cashews and on up to Brazil nuts. The smaller grains migrate downward, between the large grains, says science, which translates into peanuts moving down and the Brazil nuts moving on up. 

There are actually a lot of factors working on the nuts in that can, including gravity, friction between nuts, density (how many nuts got squeezed into the can) and other factors. 

It may sound trivial, but this is the subject of very serious scientific investigation, because it relates to how systems flow, and is of interest to materials science, and to several fields of engineering.

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