Experiments on random packings of ellipsoids

Phys Rev Lett. 2005 May 20;94(19):198001. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.94.198001. Epub 2005 May 19.


Recent simulations indicate that ellipsoids can pack randomly more densely than spheres and, remarkably, for axes ratios near 1.25:1:0.8 can approach the densest crystal packing (fcc) of spheres, with a packing fraction of 74%. We demonstrate that such dense packings are realizable. We introduce a novel way of determining packing density for a finite sample that minimizes surface effects. We have fabricated ellipsoids and show that, in a sphere, the radial packing fraction phi(r) can be obtained from V(h), the volume of added fluid to fill the sphere to height h. We also obtain phi(r) from a magnetic resonance imaging scan. The measurements of the overall density phi(avr), phi(r) and the core density phi(0) = 0.74 +/- 0.005 agree with simulations.