Temperature-like Variables in Granular Materials
Karen Daniels North Carolina State University
Host: Jen Schwarz
Statistical mechanics has provided a powerful tool for understanding the thermodynamics of materials. Because granular materials exhibit reproducible statistical distributions which depend in simple ways on macroscopic parameters such as volume and pressure, it is tempting to create a statistical mechanics of athermal materials. I will describe a suite of experiments on two-dimensional granular materials which investigate to what extent these ideas are meaningful. For example, under agitated conditions, we measure both bulk and particle-scale dynamics, and find a number of thermal-like behaviors including diffusive dynamics, a granular Boyle's Law with a van der Waals-like equation of state, and energy equipartition for rotational and translational degrees of freedom. However, the scarcity of free volume within a granular material provides a crucial control on the dynamics, and each of the above thermal-like behaviors is accompanied by interesting caveats. In an apparatus designed to generate a large number of static configurations, we test whether or not various temperature-like variables are able to equilibrate between a subsystem and a bath. We find that while a volume-based temperature known as "compactivity" fails to equilibrate, a stress-based temperature succeeds. This points to the importance of interparticle forces in controlling the mechanics of granular materials.
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