Transforming Mesoscale Granular Plasticity Through Particle Shape

Kieran A. Murphy, Karin A. Dahmen, Heinrich M. Jaeger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When an amorphous material is strained beyond the point of yielding, it enters a state of continual reconfiguration via dissipative, avalanchelike slip events that relieve built-up local stress. However, how the statistics of such events depend on local interactions among the constituent units remains debated. To address this we perform experiments on granular material in which we use particle shape to vary the interactions systematically. Granular material, confined under constant pressure boundary conditions, is uniaxially compressed while stress is measured and internal rearrangements are imaged with x rays. We introduce volatility, a quantity from economic theory, as a powerful new tool to quantify the magnitude of stress fluctuations, finding systematic, shape-dependent trends. In particular, packings of flatter, more oblate shapes exhibit more catastrophic plastic deformation events and thus higher volatility, while rounder and also prolate shapes produce lower volatility. For all 22 investigated shapes the magnitude s of relaxation events is well fit by a truncated power-law distribution P(s)∼s-τexp(-s/s∗), as has been proposed within the context of plasticity models. The power-law exponent τ for all shapes tested clusters around τ=1.5, within experimental uncertainty covering the range 1.3-1.7. The shape independence of τ and its compatibility with mean-field models indicate that the granularity of the system, but not particle shape, modifies the stress redistribution after a slip event away from that of continuum elasticity. Meanwhile, the characteristic maximum event size s∗ changes by 2 orders of magnitude and tracks the shape dependence of volatility. Particle shape in granular materials is therefore a powerful new factor influencing the distance at which an amorphous system operates from scale-free criticality. These experimental results are not captured by current models and suggest a need to reexamine the mechanisms driving mesoscale plastic deformation in amorphous systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number011014
JournalPhysical Review X
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 24 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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