Numerical simulations of granular dynamics II: Particle dynamics in a shaken granular material

Murdoch, Naomi; Michel, Patrick; Richardson, Derek C.; Nordstrom, Kerstin; Berardi, Christian R.; Green, Simon F. and Losert, Wolfgang (2012). Numerical simulations of granular dynamics II: Particle dynamics in a shaken granular material. Icarus, 219(1) pp. 321–335.



Surfaces of planets and small bodies of our Solar System are often covered by a layer of granular material that can range from a fine regolith to a gravel-like structure of varying depths. Therefore, the dynamics of granular materials are involved in many events occurring during planetary and small-body evolution thus contributing to their geological properties.

We demonstrate that the new adaptation of the parallel N-body hard-sphere code pkdgrav has the capability to model accurately the key features of the collective motion of bidisperse granular materials in a dense regime as a result of shaking. As a stringent test of the numerical code we investigate the complex collective ordering and motion of granular material by direct comparison with laboratory experiments. We demonstrate that, as experimentally observed, the scale of the collective motion increases with increasing small-particle additive concentration.

We then extend our investigations to assess how self-gravity and external gravity affect collective motion. In our reduced-gravity simulations both the gravitational conditions and the frequency of the vibrations roughly match the conditions on asteroids subjected to seismic shaking, though real regolith is likely to be much more heterogeneous and less ordered than in our idealised simulations. We also show that collective motion can occur in a granular material under a wide range of inter-particle gravity conditions and in the absence of an external gravitational field. These investigations demonstrate the great interest of being able to simulate conditions that are to relevant planetary science yet unreachable by Earth-based laboratory experiments.

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