Enlightening force chains: a review of photoelasticimetry in granular matter

Aghil Abed Zadeh, Jonathan Barés*, 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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


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 https://git-xen.lmgc.univ-montp2.fr/PhotoElasticity/Main/wikis/home, 2019).

Original languageEnglish
Article number83
JournalGranular Matter
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • Experimental methods
  • Force chains
  • Image post-processing
  • Photoelasticimetry
  • Protocols


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