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Phys Rev Lett. 2012 May 18;108(20):208001. Epub 2012 May 17.

Entangled granular media.

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School of Physics, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 30332, USA.


We study the geometrically induced cohesion of ensembles of granular "u particles" that mechanically entangle through particle interpenetration. We vary the length-to-width ratio l/w of the u particles and form them into freestanding vertical columns. In a laboratory experiment, we monitor the response of the columns to sinusoidal vibration (with peak acceleration Γ). Column collapse occurs in a characteristic time τ which follows the relation τ∝exp(Γ/Δ). Δ resembles an activation energy and is maximal at intermediate l/w. A simulation reveals that optimal strength results from competition between packing and entanglement.

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