Multi-scale modelling of granular materials: numerical framework and study on micro-structural features

J. Liu, E. Bosco (Corresponding author), A.S.J. Suiker

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A multi-scale model for the analysis of granular systems is proposed, which combines the principles of a coupled FEM–DEM approach with a novel servo-control methodology for the implementation of appropriate micro-scale boundary conditions. A mesh convergence study is performed, whereby the results of a quasi-static biaxial compression test are compared with those obtained by direct numerical simulations. The comparison demonstrates the capability of the multi-scale method to realistically capture the macro-scale response, even for macroscopic domains characterized by a relatively coarse mesh; this makes it possible to accurately analyse large-scale granular systems in a computationally efficient manner. The multi-scale framework is applied to study in a systematic manner the role of individual micro-structural characteristics on the effective macro-scale response. The effect of particle contact friction, particle rotation, and initial fabric anisotropy on the overall response is considered, as measured in terms of the evolution of the effective stress, the volumetric deformation, the average coordination number and the induced anisotropy. The trends observed are in accordance with notions from physics, and observations from experiments and other DEM simulations presented in the literature. Hence, it is concluded that the present framework provides an adequate tool for exploring the effect of micro-structural characteristics on the macroscopic response of large-scale granular structures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409–427
Number of pages19
JournalComputational Mechanics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2019


  • FEM–DEM coupled simulations
  • Micro-structural features
  • Multi-scale modelling
  • Particle aggregates


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