Emergence of dispersive shocks and rarefaction waves in power-law contact models

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In the present work, motivated by generalized forms of the Hertzian dynamics associated with granular crystals, we consider the possibility of such models to give rise to both dispersive shock and rarefaction waves. Depending on the value p of the nonlinearity exponent, we find that both of these possibilities are realizable. We use a quasicontinuum approximation of a generalized inviscid Burgers model in order to predict the solution profile up to times near the formation of the dispersive shock, as well as to estimate when it will occur. Beyond that time threshold, oscillations associated with the highly dispersive nature of the underlying model emerge, which cannot be captured by the quasicontinuum approximation. Our analytical characterization of the above features is complemented by systematic numerical computations.

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