On intermittency in sheared granular systems†
We consider a system of granular particles, modeled by two dimensional frictional soft elastic disks, that is exposed to externally applied time-dependent shear stress in a planar Couette geometry. We concentrate on the external forcing that produces intermittent dynamics of stick-slip type. In this regime, the top wall remains almost at rest until the applied stress becomes sufficiently large, and then it slips. We focus on the evolution of the system as it approaches a slip event. Our main finding is that there are two distinct groups of measures describing system behavior before a slip event. The first group consists of global measures defined as system-wide averages at a fixed time. Typical examples of measures in this group are averages of the normal or tangent forces acting between the particles, system size and number of contacts between the particles. These measures do not seem to be sensitive to an approaching slip event. On average, they tend to increase linearly with the force pulling the spring. The second group consists of the time-dependent measures that quantify the evolution of the system on a micro (particle) or mesoscale. Measures in this group first quantify the temporal differences between two states and only then aggregate them to a single number. For example, Wasserstein distance quantitatively measures the changes of the force network as it evolves in time while the number of broken contacts quantifies the evolution of the contact network. The behavior of the measures in the second group changes dramatically before a slip event starts. They increase rapidly as a slip event approaches, indicating a significant increase in fluctuations of the system before a slip event is triggered.