The probability density function of contact forces in granular materials has been extensively studied and modeled as an outstanding signature of granular microstructure. Arguing that particle environments play a fundamental role in force transmission, we analyze the effects of steric constraints with respect to force balance condition and show that each force may be considered as resulting from a balance between lower and larger forces in proportions that mainly depend on steric effects. This idea leads to a general model that predicts an analytical expression of force density with a single free parameter. This expression fits well our simulation data and generically predicts the exponential fall-off of strong forces, a small peak below the mean force and the non-zero probability of vanishingly small forces.

VL - 16 IS - 1 JO - Comptes Rendus Physique ER -