Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Physics & Astronomy

First Advisor

Douglas J. Durian


The first part of this thesis focuses on the study of the force exerted by a granular packing on an intruder. During impact, this force can be described by the linear combination of an inertial drag and a rate-independent frictional force that is proportional to depth. We measure the torque acting on a rod rotated perpendicular to its axis in a granular bed at steady state, and demonstrate that the resisting force is of the same form, though smaller. We then alter the hydrostatic loading on the bed by generating a homogenized airflow through the bed, and show that for horizontal motion the frictional force is due to friction acting at gravity-loaded contacts. Next we directly measure the force acting on quasistatically, vertically lowered intruders under two sets of varied conditions. First we vary the shape of the projectile in order to alter the fraction of the projectile surface that moves parallel vs perpendicular to the medium, and find that the frictional force acts primarily normal to the intruder surface. Second, we alter the hydrostatic loading as above, and confirm that gravity-loading of the grains sets the magnitude of the resisting force for quasi-static vertical motion as well. Finally, we consider the case of impact onto wet grains. We conduct conventional impact experiments wherein a spherical projectile impacts onto a granular packing with a known impact speed. We vary the liquid, impact speed, and degree of saturation, and find that the penetration depth is decreased for all wetting fractions, and that the penetration depth has a non-monotonic dependence on liquid saturation. In the fully saturated case, we recover the same scaling of penetration depth with geometry, impact speed and packing density as in the dry case, though the penetrations are shallower, suggesting a hydrodynamic contribution to the net stopping force.

The second part of this thesis focuses on the kinetics of the jamming transition. In particular, we observe a dispersion of spheres sedimenting in a fluid until all grains form a packing. In a Newtonian fluid, the dispersion is roughly homogeneous in space and time except at two well-defined interfaces: a dispersion-supernatant interface, and a jamming front below which grains form a jammed packing. This system is ideal for the study of jamming kinetics because the jamming front is stationary: it moves upwards with a constant speed and shape. To characterize the concentration profile at the front, we utilize x-ray absorption to directly measure volume fraction as a function of height and time. To characterize the grain-scale dynamics across the front, we utilize a light scattering technique, speckle-visibility spectroscopy, to directly measure fluctuations of the grain velocities as a function of height and time. In order to alter the kinetics of jamming in this model system, we change the dispersion concentration, grain size, and perturb the hydrodynamic interactions between grains by using a viscoelastic fluid.

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