Science and Engineering

Yale University

Corey O'Hern
New Haven, CT
$1,000,000
June 2014

The objective of this project is to establish the first comprehensive and predictive theoretical framework for assemblies of macroscopic objects.  The physical properties of all materials emerge from the collective behavior of their constituents.  At the atomic and molecular levels, thermal fluctuations dominate and free energy minimization determines collective behavior.  However, for collections of macroscopic objects, thermal motion is absent and the underlying physical concepts that control material properties are unknown.  To address this question, a team from Yale University, Brandeis University and Duke University will use theoretical, experimental and simulation approaches to generate statistical descriptions of particle configurations, measurements of contacts and stresses within granular packings, and advanced simulations for complex particles.  Specifically, they aim to characterize the jamming transition, measure the nonlinear responses of jammed configurations, and develop assembly protocols for novel granular structures.  Their efforts stand to create a theoretical framework analogous to that provided by quantum and classical statistical mechanics for atomic and molecular systems, and hold potential to create new capabilities to engineer novel materials with highly tunable properties.

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