A study of the micro-mechanics of granular media

  • D.J. Barnes

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The development of more realistic constitutive models for granular media, such as sand, requires ingredients which take into account the internal micro-mechanical response to deformation. Unfortunately, at present, very little is known about these mechanisms and therefore it is instructive to find out more about the internal nature of granular samples by conducting suitable tests.
In contrast to physical testing the method of investigation used in this study employs the Distinct Element Method. This is a computer based, iterative, time-dependent technique that allows the deformation of granular assemblies to be numerically simulated. By making assumptions regarding contact stiffnesses each individual contact force can be measured and by resolution particle centroid forces can be calculated. Then by dividing particle forces by their respective mass, particle centroid velocities and displacements are obtained by
numerical integration. The Distinct Element Method is incorporated into a computer program 'Ball'. This program is effectively a numerical apparatus which forms a logical housing for this method and allows data input and output, and also provides testing control. By using this numerical apparatus tests have been carried out on disc assemblies and many new interesting observations regarding the micromechanical behaviour are revealed.
In order to relate the observed microscopic mechanisms of deformation to the flow of the granular system two separate approaches have been used. Firstly a constitutive model has been developed which describes the yield function, flow rule and translation rule for regular assemblies of spheres and discs when subjected to coaxial deformation. Secondly statistical analyses have been carried out using data which was extracted from the simulation tests. These analyses define and quantify granular structure and then show how the force and velocity
distributions use the structure to produce the corresponding stress and strain-rate tensors.
Date of AwardMar 1985
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorC. Thornton (Supervisor)


  • computer simulated experimentation
  • idealised particulate assemblies
  • microstructural characterisation
  • induced anistropy
  • micromechanical mechanisms

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