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Dept of Physics
From avalanches and erosion to the transport of grain or pharmaceuticals, granular materials are all around us. When working with them, it rapidly becomes clear that these "simple" systems produce complex behavior: networks of force chains support the material, flowing motion is localized in shear bands, and particles segregate by size or shape when you try to mix them.
An important feature of granular materials is that the internal forces are not carried uniformly by the material, but instead through long chain-like strucutres whose density and orientation depend on the state and history of the sample. We are able to visualize these forces using a photoelastic disks and a polariscope, as seen in the image at right.
Research projects in the group address visualizing sound wave propagation, effects of order and anisotropy on material properties, phase transitions, and developing and testing statistical mechanical models.