Nonlinear effects of particle shape angularity in sheared granular media
We analyze the effects of particle shape angularity on the macroscopic shear behavior and texture of granular packings simulated by means of the contact dynamics method. The particles are regular polygons with an increasing number of sides ranging from 3 (triangles) to 60. The packings are analyzed in the steady shear state in terms of their shear strength, packing fraction, connectivity, and fabric and force anisotropies, as functions of the angularity. An interesting finding is that the shear strength increases with angularity up to a maximum value and saturates as the particles become more angular (below six sides). In contrast, the packing fraction declines towards a constant value, so that the packings of more angular particles are looser but have higher shear strength. We show that the increase of the shear strength at low angularity is due to an increase of both contact and force anisotropies and the saturation of the shear strength for higher angularities is a consequence of a rapid falloff of the contact and normal force anisotropies compensated for by an increase of the tangential force anisotropy. This transition reflects clearly the rather special geometrical properties of these highly angular shapes, implying that the stability of the packing relies strongly on the side-side contacts and the mobilization of friction forces.