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Reynolds' dilatancy is the observed tendency of a compacted granular material to dilate (expand in volume) as it is sheared. This occurs because the grains in a compacted state are interlocking and therefore do not have the freedom to move around one another. When stressed, a lever motion occurs between neighboring grains, which produces a bulk expansion of the material. On the other hand, when a granular material starts in a very loose state it may initially compact instead of dilating under shear. Reynolds' dilatancy is a common feature of the soils and sands studied by geotechnical engineers, and is a part of the broader topic of soil mechanics. It was first described scientifically by Osborne Reynolds (1842–1912) in 1885 and 1886.
Reynolds, O., "On the dilatancy of media composed of rigid particles in contact, with experimental illustrations," Phil. Mag., Series 5, 20 (1885), pp. 469–481.
Reynolds, O., "Experiments showing dilatancy, a property of granular material, possibly connected with gravitation," Proc. Royal Institution of Great Britain, Read February 12, 1886.
R. M. Nedderman, Statics and Kinematics of Granular Materials, Cambridge University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-521-01907-9.