Structural stability and jamming of self-organized cluster conformations in dense granular materials
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We examine emergent, self-organized particle cluster conformations in quasistatically deforming dense granular materials from the perspective of structural stability. A structural mechanics approach is employed, first, to devise a new stability measure for such conformations in equilibrium and, second, to use this measure to explore the evolving stability of jammed states of specific cluster conformations, i.e. particles forming force chains and minimal contact cycles. Knowledge gained on (a) the spatial and temporal evolution of stability of individual jammed conformations and (b) their relative stability levels, offer valuable clues on the rheology and, in particular, self-assembly of granular materials. This study is undertaken using data from assemblies of nonuniformly sized circular particles undergoing 2D deformation in two biaxial compression tests: a discrete element simulation of monotonic loading under constant confining pressure, and cyclic loading of a photoelastic disk assembly under constant volume. Our results suggest that the process of self-assembly in these systems is realized at multiple length scales, and that jammed force chains and minimal cycles form the basic building blocks of this process. In particular, 3-cycles are stabilizing agents that act as granular trusses to the load-bearing force chain columns. This co-evolutionary synergy between force chains and 3-cycles proved common to the different materials under different loading conditions. Indeed, the remarkable similarities in the evolution of stability, prevalence and persistence of minimal cycles and force chains in these systems suggest that these structures and their co-evolution together form a generic feature of dense granular systems under quasistatic loading.
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