Granular Matter

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 165–175 | Cite as

Nonlinear granular electrostatics

  • Theo Siu
  • Will Pittman
  • Jake Cotton
  • Troy ShinbrotEmail author
Original Paper


We study the effect of interactions between dipole moments of grains exposed to strong electric field gradients, and we find that several novel behaviors appear, including dynamical dust swirls and a variety of vertical columns and filaments of grains. We find that we can qualitatively reproduce most observed experimental phenomena in simple simulations, and we demonstrate that the observed phenomena are a direct consequence of intrinsic nonlinear electrostatic interactions between neighboring particles. We close by drawing a parallel between granular electrostatics and the better-established field of celestial mechanics, since both fields involve multi-body forces governed by an inverse-squared law.


Nonlinear Granular Electrostatics 



We thank Nam Kim, Akash Patel, Ankur Patel, Sameer Patel, N. Nirmal Thyagu, and Lillian Wang for technical assistance, and Pinaki Chakraborty for contributing supporting experimental data. This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation under Grant No’s 0827404 and 1404792.

Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1 (mov 6950 KB)

Supplementary material 2 (mov 9839 KB)

Supplementary material 3 (mov 7277 KB)

Supplementary material 4 (mov 22413 KB)

Supplementary material 5 (mov 19945 KB)

Supplementary material 6 (mov 26728 KB)

Supplementary material 7 (mov 10417 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Theo Siu
    • 1
  • Will Pittman
    • 1
  • Jake Cotton
    • 1
  • Troy Shinbrot
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Rutgers UniversityPiscatawayUSA

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