When is a lubricant effective?

A plate shearing an interstitial granular medium and driven by an always ongoing spring feels less fricion when only few layers are present. Adding more layers results in an increase of friction,
nevertheless the plate slides more often. The ease of slipping is not determined by friction alone?


M A Annunziata, A Baldassarri, F Dalton, A Petri and G Pontuale, Increasing ‘ease of sliding’ also increases friction: when is a lubricant effective?Read the rest

Gaussian, non Gaussian and Anomalous diffusion to improve medical diagnosis

In the biomedical field, Diffusion Magnetic Resonance (DMR) images provide a measure of water proton displacements by probing motion on the mesoscopic length scale (around 10-20 µm), which is orders of magnitude smaller than the macroscopic MR resolution (typically 1-2 millimetres for clinical MR scanners).

Therefore, independently of image resolution (which is linked to the hardware of the NMR scanner) we can obtain microstructural information of human tissue at the mesoscopic length scale.… Read the rest

Molecole magnetiche su grafene per la spintronica

Una ricerca, svolta in collaborazione fra fisici e chimici italiani, tedeschi e spagnoli, mostra che è possibile realizzare nano-sistemi ibridi depositando magneti molecolari su grafene. L’interazione fra gli spin dei magneti molecolari e il gas bidimensionale di elettroni del grafene modifica profondamente la dinamica quantistica degli spin molecolari. Ciò apre la strada al controllo dello spin mediante campi elettrici nei nano-dispositivi per la spintronica (elettronica di spin) basati sul grafene.… Read the rest

New porous water ice metastable at atmospheric pressure obtained by emptying a hydrogen-filled ice

Leonardo del Rosso 1,2, Milva Celli 1 & Lorenzo Ulivi

The properties of some forms of water ice reserve still intriguing surprises. Besides the several stable or metastable phases of pure ice, solid mixtures of water with gases are precursors of other ices, as in some cases they may be emptied, leaving a metastable hydrogen-bound water structure. We present here the first characterization of a new form of ice, obtained from the crystalline solid compound of water and molecular hydrogen called C0-structure filled ice.… Read the rest

The soft side of hard matter

Soft condensed matter is characterized by gigantic responses to  external perturbations which is the reason why these systems are extremely useful for applications, like liquid crystals in our cell phones displays. In contrast, hard condensed matter a.k.a. solids respond more weakly to external perturbations but present an enormous richness of interesting phases like metallic, insulating,  magnetic, superconducting, ferroelectric,  charge order, etc.  … Read the rest

Differential and absolute negative mobility in steady laminar flows

  Nonlinear response in out-of-equilibrium systems can show counter-intuitive behaviors, for instance cases where the force increases but the response decreases (negative differential mobility). Sometimes the response crosses zero and changes sign with respect to the force (absolute negative mobility). In classical physics this is usually observed within complicate models with obstacles and traps. We have demonstrated such complex non-linear phenomena in a much simpler and realistic system, ie.… Read the rest

Thermal convection in granular gases with dissipative lateral walls

Convection in molecular fluids is provided by the competition between gravity and an adverse temperature gradient (two thermostats, the hotter below, the colder above). In a granular gas it can be achieved by a single thermostat at the base, for instance a vibrating piston. Energy dissipation provides the “second thermostat” which spontaneously forms gradient and may stabilize a convective state. Here we have demonstrated that even the simple dissipation in the collision between grains and lateral walls is sufficient to trigger convection, without any critical threshold.… Read the rest

Heat, temperature and Clausius inequality in a model for active brownian particles

Living matter at the microscale, many kinds of cells, bacteria and other organisms, self-propel through a viscous fluid which acts as a thermal bath, dissipating the energy provided by the internal motor (pseudopoda, flagella, etc.). This energetic balance is ruled by non-equilibrium thermodynamics, as for heat engines. In this theoretical work we have given a mesoscopic description of this process, which allows to measure a local heat dissipation and a local non-equilibrium temperature (associated to self-propulsion and to the forces driving the active particle) which together provide a definition of active entropy production which satisfies the Clausius inequality.… Read the rest

Mechanism of self-propulsion in 3D-printed active granular particles



 We have reproduced the self propulsion of bacteria and animals with 3d-printed “active granular particles”. Those small artificial insects walk on a rough vibrated plate because of a subtle interplay between material elastic properties and solid-on-solid friction. The advantage of 3d-printed objects is in the possibility to tune certain features (here the inclination of “legs”) in order to verify theoretical predictions and establish an optimal shape for running.… Read the rest

Cages and anomalous diffusion in vibrated dense granular media

Caging is the typical microscopic phenomenon that “traps” molecules in a liquid at low temperature. The usual Brownian Motion of a tracer experiences a temporary “dynamical arrest” which eventually is broken restoring normal diffusion. In this work we have shown that at intermediate densities and temperature the same phenomenon occurs in granular liquids. At large densities and lower temperatures the late normal diffusion is replaced with superdiffusion.… Read the rest

Radio 3 Scienza on “Rappresentanza o governabilità”, A. Petri interviewed

Alberto Petri interviewed on “Rappresentanza o governabilità”, RAI ”Radio 3 Scienza”, February 3rd, 2014

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Brownian Ratchet in a Thermal Bath Driven by Coulomb Friction

A Brownian Ratchet is a small engine which is conceived to extract work from molecular fluctuations. Examples of Brownian Ratchets occur in the cell, see for instance this nice movie about kinesin.

As well explained by Richard Feynmann, a Brownian Ratchet cannot perform its own task in an equilibrium environment, i.e. the fluctuations feeding energy to the ratchet cannot originate from a single thermal bath, in accordance with the second principle of thermodynamics.… Read the rest

Shaken Granular Lasers


A random laser is usually obtained pumping light through a disordered medium. The dynamics of light through a heterogeneous configuration of scatterers and cavities provides emitted spectra with random and fluctuating peaks which have a wide range of applications and are nowadays subject to an intense theoretical activity. In this work we have added a new flavour to the idea of random lasers, replacing the usually static disordered medium with a vibrofluidized granular material.… Read the rest

Quasi 2D granular dynamics

4000 spheres of steel (diameter 2mm) are deposited on a horizontal rough plate (200mm diameter, only a square 100mm X 100mm is shown) and are put in motion by vertical vibration of the plate (sinusoidal shaking, amplitude 0.7mm, frequency 200Hz). The resulting motion, on the plane, is a composition of random sliding on the plate and inelastic collisions among particles. This is a “non-equilibrium” Brownian motion.… Read the rest

Soft matter

The term “soft matter” refers to a very large class of materials, whose common characteristic is that they are composed of mesoscopic particles, i.e. particles with typical sizes ranging from 1 nm to a few microns. These particles are normally dispersed in a solvent, whose molecules are much smaller in size (typically of atomic dimensions). In addition, the solution may contain other small objects, such as polymeric chains, salt ions, etc.… Read the rest

Granular Dynamics Laboratory

Since July 2010, the Granular Dynamics Laboratory is operative – originally in room “010” and (from november 2012) –  in room “012” (ground floor of Fermi Building of the Physics Department) at the Sapienza unit of ISC. The laboratory includes two main experimental setups:


  1. Vertical vibration (2d and 3d granular experiments): an electrodynamic shaker LDS V455, which can reach a maximum acceleration of 105g, powered by a PA1000L power amplifier.
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Granular Phases

Steel spheres move on a plate. The “thermostat ” is a vibrating wall, following a sine law with frequency 20 Hz . Weak gravity (the plate has a small angle of inclination) draws the spheres toward the vibrating wall. In 5 minutes, slowly increasing the amplitude, the many “phases” of a granular material are explored, from an almost perfect crystal, through several liquid/turbulent/convective regimes, up to a gas-solid coexistence.… Read the rest


Granular fluids to explore non-equilibrium statistical mechanics

Founding Body: MIUR, Italy (reserved to selected ERC-Starting Grants 2007)
Total grant: € 1200k
Principal Investigator: Andrea Puglisi
Other participants:
Project duration: 2009-2014
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Granular Gases to explore Non-Equilibrium Statistical Mechanics

How do properties of molecular trajectories reflect on large scale transport and relaxation properties? Is it possible to directly and experimentally verify the Boltzmann’s program, connecting the microscopic level to the macroscopic description? Can we zoom into an out-of-equilibrium fluid and reveal, in the laboratory, its underlying microscopic reversibility? These are some of the questions addressed by the GRANULARCHAOS project, funded by an IDEAS grant (originally selected by ERC and then funded by italian FIRB) for five years.… Read the rest