Stress propagation in sand

M E Cates, J P Wittmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We describe a new continuum approach to the modelling of stress propagation in static granular media, focussing on the conical sandpile created from a point source. We argue that the stress continuity equations should be closed by means of scale-free, local constitutive relations between different components of the stress tensor, encoding the construction history of the pile: this history determines the organization of the grains, and thereby the local relationship between stresses. Our preferred model fixed principle axes (FPA) assumes that the eigendirections (but not the eigenvalues) of the stress tensor are determined forever when a material element is first buried. Stresses propagate along a nested set of arch-like structures within the medium; the results are in good quantitative agreement with published experimental data. The FPA model is. one of a larger class, called oriented stress linearity (OSL) models, in which the direction of the characteristics for stress propagation are fixed at burial. We speculate on the connection between these characteristics and the stress paths observed microscopically. (C) 1998 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-284
Number of pages9
JournalPhysica a-Statistical mechanics and its applications
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 1998


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