Granular materials such as sand may be viewed as continuous bodies composed of much smaller elastic bodies. The multiscale geometry of structured deformations captures the contribution at the macrolevel of the smooth deformation of each small body in the aggregate (deformation without disarrangements) as well as the contribution at the macrolevel of the non-smooth deformations such as slips and separations between the small bodies in the aggregate (deformation due to disarrangements). When the free energy response of the aggregate depends only upon the deformation without disarrangements and posesses standard growth and semiconvexity properties, we establish (i) the existence of a compact phase in which every small elastic body deforms in the same way as the aggregate and, when the volume change of macroscopic deformation is sufficiently large, (ii) the existence of a loose phase in which every small elastic body expands and rotates to achieve a stress-free state with accompanying disarrangements in the aggregate. We show that a broad class of elastic aggregates can admit moving surfaces that transform material in the compact phase into the loose phase and vice versa and that such transformations entail drastic changes in the level of deformation of transforming material points.
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