Imperfect bodies sink imperfectly when settling in granular matter

M Espinosa and L Martínez-Ortíz and L Alonso-Llanes and LA Rodriguez-de- Torner and O Chávez-Linares and E Altshuler, SCIENCE ADVANCES, 9, eadf6243 (2023).

DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adf6243

From Mars rovers to buildings, objects eventually sink and tilt into a fluidized granular bed due to gravity. Despite the irregular shape of realistic granular intruders, most research focus on the settling of "perfect" objects like spheres and cylinders. Here, we systematically explore the penetration of "imperfect" solids- from stones to bodies with carefully controlled asymmetries-into granular beds. A cylinder with two halves of different roughnesses rotates toward the granular region next to the smoother surface and deviates from the vertical direction. We demonstrate that even small irregularities in the surface of an object may produce substantial changes in the penetration process. Using computer simulations, we show that defects concentrate granular force chains, thus producing decisive forces on the intruder. Furthermore, we demonstrate that tilting and migration of sinking bodies can be correctly predicted by a simple mechanical model based on a unified force law.

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