Quantum Physics Division
Faculty of PhysicsAdam Mickiewicz University

Urn model of separation of sand

A. Lipowski1,2 , M. Droz2

1 Department of Physics, University of Genève, CH 1211 Genève 4, Switzerland
2 Department of Physics, A. Mickiewicz University, 61-614 Poznań, Poland

Phys. Rev. E, 65, 031307 – 1-7 (2002)
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.65.031307


We introduce an urn model that describes spatial separation of sand. In this dynamical model, in a certain range of parameters spontaneous symmetry breaking takes place and equipartitioning of sand into two compartments is broken. The steady-state equation for an order parameter, a critical line, and the tricritical point on the phase diagram are found exactly. The master equation and the first-passage problem for the model are solved numerically and the results are used to locate first-order transitions. Exponential divergence of a certain characteristic time shows that the model can also exhibit very strong metastability. In certain cases characteristic time diverges as Nz, where N is the number of balls and z=1 / 2 (critical line), 2 / 3 (tricritical point), or 1 / 3 (limits of stability).


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