Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2013
Sand, gravel, rice, sugar … Granular matter is familiar and abounds around us. However, the physics of granular media is still poorly understood and continues to fascinate scientists and other people, more than three centuries after the work of Coulomb on slope stability. A pile of grains actually exhibits a great variety of behaviours with unique properties. Strong enough to support the weight of a building, grains can also easily flow like water in an hourglass or be transported by wind to sculpt dunes and deserts. For a long time, the study of granular materials has remained the preserve of engineers and geologists. Therefore, important concepts arose from the need to build structures on solid ground, store grains in a silo or predict the history of a sediment. More recently, the study of granular media has entered the field of physics, at the crossroads of statistical physics, mechanics and soft-matter physics. The combination of results from laboratory experiments on model materials, discrete numerical simulations and theoretical approaches from other fields has enriched and renewed our understanding of granular materials.
This book has been written in this context. Our goal is to provide an introduction to the physics of granular media that takes into account recent advances in this field, while describing the basic concepts and tools useful in many industrial and geophysical applications. This book is intended primarily for students, researchers and engineers willing to become familiar with the fundamental properties of granular matter.