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Monitoring three-dimensional packings in microgravity

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We present results from experiments with granular packings in three dimensions in microgravity as realized on parabolic flights. Two different techniques are employed to monitor the inside of the packings during compaction: (1) X-ray radiography is used to measure in transmission the integrated fluctuations of particle positions. (2) Stress-birefringence in three dimensions is applied to visualize the stresses inside the packing. The particle motions below the transition into an arrested packing are found to produce a well agitated state. At the transition, the particles lose their energy quite rapidly and form a stress network. With both methods, non-arrested particles (rattlers) can be identified. In particular, it is found that rattlers inside the arrested packing can be excited to appreciable dynamics by the rest-accelerations (g-jitter) during a parabolic flight without destroying the packings. At low rates of compaction, a regime of slow granular cooling is identified. The slow cooling extends over several seconds, is described well by a linear law, and terminates in a rapid final collapse of dynamics before complete arrest of the packing.

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We acknowledge financial support by DFG FG1394 and BMWi 50WM0741 as well as technical assistance by D. Bräuer, F. Kargl, S. Klein, and T. Kornwebel. PY and MS want to thank especially warmly their advisor and tutor Bob Behringer for fruitful guidance over many years.

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Correspondence to Matthias Sperl.

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Yu, P., Frank-Richter, S., Börngen, A. et al. Monitoring three-dimensional packings in microgravity. Granular Matter 16, 165–173 (2014).

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