A novel experimental device for investigating the multiscale behavior of granular materials under shear
In this paper, we report a set of experiments performed on a novel mechanical device that allows a specimen composed of a two-dimensional opaque granular assembly to be subjected to quasi-static shear conditions. A complete description of the grain-scale quantities that control the mechanical behavior of granular materials is extracted throughout the shear deformation. Geometrical arrangement, or fabric, is quantified by means of image processing, grain kinematics are obtained using Digital Image Correlation and contact forces are inferred using the Granular Element Method. Aiming to bridge the micro-macro divide, macroscopic average stresses for the granular assembly are calculated based on grain-scale fabric parameters and contact forces. The experimental procedure is detailed and validated using a simple uniaxial compression test. Macroscopic results of shear stress and volumetric strain exhibit typical features of the shear response of dense granular materials and indicate that critical state is achieved at large deformations. At the grain scale, attention is given to the evolution of fabric and contact forces as the granular assembly is sheared. The results show that shear deformation induces geometrical (fabric) and mechanical (force) anisotropy and that principal stresses and force orientation rotate simultaneously. At critical state, stress, force and fabric orientation reach the same value. By seamlessly connecting grain-scale information to continuum scale experiments, we shed light into the multiscale mechanical behavior of granular assemblies under shear loading.