We describe a series of experiments and computer simulations on vibrated granular media in a geometry chosen to eliminate gravitationally induced settling. The system consists of a collection of identical spherical particles on a horizontal plate vibrating vertically, with or without a confining lid. Previously reported results are reviewed, including the observation of homogeneous, disordered liquid-like states, an instability to a ‘collapse ’ of motionless spheres on a perfect hexagonal lattice, and a fluctuating, hexagonally ordered state. In the presence of a confining lid we see a variety of solid phases at high densities and relatively high vibration amplitudes, several of which are reported for the first time in this article. The phase behavior of the system is closely related to that observed in confined hard-sphere colloidal suspensions in equilibrium, but with modifications due to the effects of the forcing and dissipation. We also review measurements of velocity distributions, which range from Maxwellian to strongly non-Maxwellian depending on the experimental parameter values. We describe measurements of spatial velocity correlations that show a clear dependence on the mechanism of energy injection. We also report new measurements of the velocity autocorrelation function in the granular layer and show that increased inelasticity leads to enhanced particle selfdiffusion. PACS numbers: 45.70.-n,05.70.Fh,05.70.L
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