Granular Matter

, 21:83 | Cite as

Enlightening force chains: a review of photoelasticimetry in granular matter

  • Aghil Abed Zadeh
  • Jonathan BarésEmail author
  • Theodore A. Brzinski
  • Karen E. Daniels
  • Joshua Dijksman
  • Nicolas Docquier
  • Henry O. Everitt
  • Jonathan E. Kollmer
  • Olivier Lantsoght
  • Dong Wang
  • Marcel Workamp
  • Yiqiu Zhao
  • Hu Zheng
Original Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. In Memoriam of Robert P. Behringer, late Editor in Chief of Granular Matter


A photoelastic material will reveal its internal stresses when observed through polarizing filters. This eye-catching property has enlightened our understanding of granular materials for over half a century, whether in the service of art, education, or scientific research. In this review article in honor of Robert Behringer, we highlight both his pioneering use of the method in physics research, and its reach into the public sphere through museum exhibits and outreach programs. We aim to provide clear protocols for artists, exhibit-designers, educators, and scientists to use in their own endeavors. It is our hope that this will build awareness about the ubiquitous presence of granular matter in our lives, enlighten its puzzling behavior, and promote conversations about its importance in environmental and industrial contexts. To aid in this endeavor, this paper also serves as a front door to a detailed wiki containing open, community-curated guidance on putting these methods into practice (Abed-Zadeh et al. in Photoelastic methods wiki, 2019).


Photoelasticimetry Force chains Experimental methods Image post-processing Protocols 



We would like to thank Rémy Mozul for his technical support with the wiki [44]. Several conversations and collaborations have led to sharing the techniques described in this paper. We are grateful to Bernie Jelinek and Richard Nappi for sharing their technical knowledge about photoelastic material cutting. The outlook section contains insights gained from Chris M. Bingham, Willie J. Padilla, Anthony Llopis and Nan M. Jokerst (recent work on terahertz photoelasticity), and from Nathalie Vriend and Amalia Thomas (fast-imaging photoelasticity). Finally, we thank the late Robert Behringer for his kindness, his depth of knowledge gained from developing photoelastic techniques for two decades, and his stimulating attitude towards every new generation of scientists passing through his laboratory. This review article is a product of his excellent mentorship.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aghil Abed Zadeh
    • 1
  • Jonathan Barés
    • 2
    Email author
  • Theodore A. Brzinski
    • 3
  • Karen E. Daniels
    • 4
  • Joshua Dijksman
    • 5
  • Nicolas Docquier
    • 6
  • Henry O. Everitt
    • 7
  • Jonathan E. Kollmer
    • 8
  • Olivier Lantsoght
    • 6
  • Dong Wang
    • 1
  • Marcel Workamp
    • 5
  • Yiqiu Zhao
    • 1
  • Hu Zheng
    • 1
    • 9
  1. 1.Department of Physics and Center for Nonlinear and Complex SystemsDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Laboratoire de Mécanique et Génie CivilUniversité de Montpellier, CNRSMontpellierFrance
  3. 3.Department of PhysicsHaverford CollegeHaverfordUSA
  4. 4.Department of PhysicsNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  5. 5.Physical Chemistry and Soft MatterWageningen University & ResearchWageningenThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Institute of Mechanics, Material and Civil EngineeringUniversité catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  7. 7.Department of Physics and Department of ChemistryDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  8. 8.Department of PhysicsUniversität Duisburg-EssenDuisburgGermany
  9. 9.School of Earth Science and EngineeringHohai UniversityNanjingChina

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