3D visualisation of a partially crystallised packing containing ≈200000 beads. Bright regions indicate the location of disordered aggregates of beads, which are placed at the boundaries of ordered domains.
Have you ever wondered why we only leave footprints on wet beaches not on dry sand? Or why wet sand looks dry the moment you stand on it? Or have you thought about landslides and what triggers them? Or how a large assembly of cells can pile up and form a living tissue? Answering these simple questions requires a deep understanding of the kinematics and mechanics of granular materials. There have been many developments in understanding the nature of granular materials in recent years, but to date some questions are still topics for debate; questions such as the dynamics of the interaction between individual grains and the distribution of forces inside granular packings.
At the Department of Applied Mathematics at ANU, we have the necessary experimental aparatus and computing power combined with years of research experience in the field of granular materials to address some of the fundamental questions in this area. Students involved in this project will learn to design and perform experiments to understand the nature of forces in granular materials. Parallel to the experiments, students will learn common numerical techniques such as Molecular Dynamics and the Discrete Element Method to simulate packings of granular materials. These simulations will give us the flexibility of performing virtual experiments with controlled parameters to compare with real experiments and therefore validate the results.