A heavy intruder in a locally-shaken granular solid†
We experimentally investigate the gravitational-driven motion of a heavy object inside a vertical 2D assembly of identical, plastic cylinders arranged in a regular, triangular lattice. The bottom of the assembly is in contact with a rough plate whose horizontal, sinusoidal motion induces the formation of shear bands in the granular solid, aligned with the edges of the lattice. The intruder sinks when the width of the shear band is as large as its size and halts once the regular configuration of the grains is recovered. The resulting vertical motion of the intruder is random and intermittent, as in disordered granular or colloidal systems near jamming, with alternate flows and blockades. We show, in analogy with earthquakes, that the relation between the size and the duration of the flowing events follows a power-law with an exponent larger than one, and that the statistics of their size is compatible with the Gutenberg–Richter law. We also show that the probability density function of times between flowing events is similar to the Omori law governing the distribution of aftershock sequences following large earthquakes. Finally, the analysis of the velocity fluctuations of the intruder points to a transition from a strong to a weak contact network in the ordered granular assembly, similar to the transition from jammed to fragile states in disordered systems.