Noise, coherent fluctuations, and the onset of order in an oscillated granular fluid

Phys Rev Lett. 2004 Apr 30;92(17):174302. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.92.174302. Epub 2004 Apr 29.


We study fluctuations in a vertically oscillated layer of grains below the critical acceleration for the onset of ordered standing waves. As onset is approached, transient disordered waves with a characteristic length scale emerge and increase in power and coherence. The scaling behavior and the shift in the onset of order agrees with the Swift-Hohenberg theory for convection in fluids. However, the noise in the granular system is an order of magnitude larger than the thermal noise in the most sensitive convecting fluid experiments to date; the effect of the granular noise is observable 20% below the onset of order.