Mechanically Stabilized Jammed Granular Composites
This was my first taste of research way back during my freshman year at Olin. Over the course of the semester I investigated the effects of mechanical stabilization on jammed granular materials. Granular jamming is a method to form rigidizable structures by applying a vacuum to a granular medium. The ambient air pressure compresses the grains together, jamming them, and forming a rigid structure. The stiffness of the composite is limited by the air pressure available to jam the gains together. My research focused on determining whether mechanically stabilized earth (MSE), a technique used in civil engineering to strengthen earthen structures, could be used to increase the stiffness of jammed granular composites. My research found mechanical stabilization could increase the stiffness of jammed granular material by 300% with negligible increases to mass and volume.
Granular materials such as sand and dirt are composed of a myriad of small particles. When these particles are loosely packed, they are able to slide past each other and act like a fluid. When these particles are compressed, they lock together forming a rigid solid-like material.