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River and wind processes can be readily studied in the field, and we have devised a series of lab exercises in western Nevada that take advantage of our rivers and deserts. But for density-contrast flows, there was no easy way to get the students beyond pictures and formulae. With the assistance of Tripp Plastics, we designed acrylic tanks that fit on a lab bench. They have a ramp with screw-adjustable slope up to 20Â. Students mix a solution of Epsom salt (MgSO4) to several experimental densities. They add a dye to make the dense fluid visible. The dyed fluid is released at the top of the slope. The grid allows the flow to be accurately timed and described. The students determine how density changes and how slope affect the flow velocity and structure.
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