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Soil Strength on Titan: A Laboratory Study Using a Custom Simulant

Presentation #205.03 in the session Titan IV: Surface and Interior (Poster + Lightning Talk)

Published onOct 23, 2023
Soil Strength on Titan: A Laboratory Study Using a Custom Simulant

One of the current hypothesis about the nature of the soil at the surface of Satrun’s moon Titan is that atmospheric haze deposition is a major contributor to its formation; these haze deposits combine into larger grains by aggregation or mix with the icy bedrock in Titan’s low gravity environment to form some of the geological features observed. The goal of the work presented here is to experimentally study the behavior of this granular material in Titan-like conditions within the context of the surface data collected by the Huygens probe and the Cassini orbiter. Our approach combines the use of simulants with comparable mechanical properties in reduced gravity conditions in order to contribute to our understanding of Titan’s soil in the equatorial regions.

We present laboratory measurements of bulk shear strength performed on Titan soil simulants. Several types of simulants were used, including commercial PMMA particles, as well as a custom simulant tailored to mimic laboratory tholins in their mechanical properties while remaining non-toxic and allowing for bulk production. In order to perform our measurements in a relevant acceleration environment, we ran them under 0.14g, g being the acceleration of gravity at the surface of the Earth, using a partial gravity drop tower based on an Atwood machine design. Our measurements allowed us to compute the angle of internal friction and bulk cohesion of the simulants under Titan gravity levels and to compare these to 1g laboratory measurements. We present our results and some constraints they set on the regolith on Titan.

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