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We took the classic ‘guess the number of beans in a jar game’ and amplified the research question. Rather than estimate the quantity of particles in the jar, we sought to characterize the spaces between them. Here we present an approach for delineating the pockets of empty space (three-dimensional pores) between packed particles, which are hotspots for activity in applications and natural phenomena that deal with particulate materials. We utilize techniques from graph theory to exploit information about particle configuration that allows us to locate important spatial landmarks within the void space. These landmarks are the basis for our pore segmentation, where we consider both interior pores as well as entrance and exit pores into and out of the structure. Our method is robust for particles of varying size, form, stiffness and configuration, which allows us to study and compare three-dimensional pores across a range of packed particle types. We report striking relationships between particles and pores that are described mathematically, and we offer a visual library of pore types. With a meaningful discretization of void space, we demonstrate that packed particles can be understood not by their solid space, but by their empty space.

Riley L Cheng P Segura T