An approach to enhance efficiency of dem modelling of soils with crushable grains

M. O. Ciantia, Marcos Arroyo, F. Calvetti, A. Gens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

180 Citations (Scopus)


In this study oedometric compression tests of hydrocarbon coke, Fontainebleau sand and silica sand are simulated in three dimensions using breakable particles. The method adapts a rigorous breakage criterion for elasto-brittle spheres to represent failure of grains isolated between platens or within granular masses. The breakage criterion allows for the effect of particle bulk and contact properties to be treated separately. A discrete fragmentation multigenerational approach is applied as a spawning procedure. The number of particles quickly increases during the simulation, but is kept manageable by systematic fine exclusion and upscaling. Fine exclusion leads to mass losses between generations, but that loss is accounted for outside the mechanical model. Sensitivity analysis shows that it is enough to keep 53% of the crushed particle mass within the mechanical model to correctly reproduce experimental macroscopic behaviour. Practical upscaling rules are proposed for (a) contact stiffness, (b) breakage criteria and (c) grain size distribution, and validated simulating the same test, reducing by half the initial number of particles. The results are promising as both the mechanical and grading evolution are well captured with two orders of magnitude savings in computing efficiency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-110
Number of pages20
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015


  • Discrete-element modelling
  • Particle crushing/crushability
  • Particle-scale behaviour

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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