Revolutionizing Granular Materials with New Discoveries

Walking on the beach, we take for granted the firmness of the sand beneath our feet. However, when placed in an hourglass, the same sand behaves more fluidly. Granular materials, such as sand, possess unique properties that have intrigued scientists for years. While the flow properties of lab-made granular materials have been manipulated, their compressibility has remained a challenge.

Recently, researchers from the University of Amsterdam and Santiago in Chile have made a breakthrough in creating new granular materials that are not only flowable but also easily compressible. This advancement opens up possibilities for various applications, particularly in shock dampening. The researchers drew inspiration from tetrapods, massive concrete blocks found along the coast of Japan, which effectively prevent erosion due to their unique shape and design.

Daan Haver, the lead author of the study, explains the concept of metamaterials, where the geometry of a material dictates its behavior. By designing grains that shrink radially under pressure, the researchers were able to create a packing that maintains its free space between grains even when compressed. This unique property allows the grains to flow like a liquid while being highly compressible, contrary to traditional granular materials.

The impact of the new granular materials extends to shock dampening applications. When a metal disk is dropped into a packing of these innovative grains, it slows down gradually and experiences minimal bounce back. This behavior ensures a more consistent and homogeneous transfer of energy, making it ideal for cushioning in scenarios like speed skating races.

The discovery of these novel granular materials has the potential to revolutionize various industries. From enhancing shock-absorbing materials to improving the stability of coastal structures, the applications are vast. By manipulating the properties of granular materials, researchers have unlocked a new realm of possibilities for creating innovative materials with unique characteristics.

The recent breakthrough in designing compressible and flowable granular materials marks a significant advancement in material science. By leveraging the principles of metamaterials and innovative geometric designs, researchers have paved the way for creating materials with tailored properties. The implications for shock dampening and other applications are promising, showcasing the incredible potential of these new granular materials.


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