A University of Chicago research group manufactured granular materials of various shapes in a 3D printer to test their aggregate properties when jammed into a confined space.

In recent computer simulations and experiments, the team analyzed how the properties of a jammed material can be tuned by changing the shape of the constituent particles.

A computer designed particles by starting from a random shape, and then iteratively altered its configuration, at each stage performing a series of simulations that tested how close the performance approximated the stated goal. Once an optimal shape was identified, a large number of copies were tested in a vise-like squeezing apparatus to verify the algorithm’s predictions.


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