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Researchers explain what makes granular material become solid
Date:12/14/2011

ers found that when the shape of the box changed due to shear, the discs exhibited a solid state even without the density changing. This, Chakraborty says, is remarkable because usually it is an increase in density that transforms loose material to a solid. "For theorist like us, these experiments are wonderful because we can see exactly what this system is doing," says Chakraborty. "How these patterns change as the discs are pushed and altered gives us information such as how many contacts each grain makes, and the force at every contact."

Chakraborty says that using this data she and Bi constructed a theory that explains how the solid is being formed. "It's possible that if there was no friction between the discs that they would have been able to slide past each other and not get jammed," says Chakraborty. "We now are performing computer simulations to see if shear jamming will occur without friction."

In an abstract written in 2008 in Jamming of Granular Matter, Chakraborty and Robert P. Behringer of Duke University explained that jamming is the extension of the concept of freezing to the transition from a fluid state to a jammed state. Understanding jamming in granular systems, they say, is important from a technological, environmental, and basic science perspective. A jamming of grains in silos cause catastrophic failures. Avalanches are examples of unjamming, which need to be understood in order to prevent and control, such as the avalanche that killed pro skier Jamie Pierre on November 13, 2011.

Shearing is a major force in nature, explains Chakraborty. When wind blows over the earth, shearing occurs in the sand. Understanding what shear does, she says, is very important.

"We have a very good theoretical framework as to how water behaves, or ice or air," says Chakraborty. "We don't have any fundamental theoretical framework to predict how sand behaves when the wind is blowing fast or slow."

This information coul
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Contact: Susan Chaityn Lebovits
lebovits@brandies.edu
781-736-4027
Brandeis University
Source:Eurekalert

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