Micromechanics of agglomerate damage processes

  • M.T. Ciomocos

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis reports a detailed investigation of the micromechanics of agglomerate behaviour under free-fall impact, double (punch) impact and diametrical compression tests using the simulation software TRUBAL. The software is based on the discrete element method (DEM) which incorporates the Newtonian equations of motion and contact mechanics theory to model the interparticle interactions. Four agglomerates have been used: three dense (differing in interface energy and contact density) and one loose. Although the simulated agglomerates are relatively coarse-grained, the results obtained are in good agreement with laboratory test results reported in the literature. The computer simulation results show that, in all three types of test, the loose agglomerate cannot fracture as it is unable to store sufficient elastic energy. Instead, it becomes flattened for low loading-rates and shattered or crushed at higher loading-rates. In impact tests, the dense agglomerates experience only local damage at low impact velocities. Semi-brittle fracture and fragmentation are produced over a range of higher impact velocities and at very high impact velocities shattering occurs. The dense agglomerates fracture in two or three large fragments in the diametrical compression tests. Local damage at the agglomerate-platen interface always occurs prior to fracture and consists of local bond breakage (microcrack formation) and local dislocations (compaction). The fracture process is dynamic and much more complex than that suggested by continuum fracture mechanics theory. Cracks are always initiated from the contact zones and propagate towards the agglomerate centre. Fracture occurs a short time after the start of unloading when a fracture crack "selection" process takes place. The detailed investigation of the agglomerate damage processes includes an examination of the evolution of the fracture surface. Detailed comparisons of the behaviour of the same agglomerate in all three types of test are presented. The particle size distribution curves of the debris are also examined, for both free-fall and double impact tests.
Date of AwardJul 1996
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorC. Thornton (Supervisor)


  • computer simulation
  • fracture
  • impact
  • diametrical compression
  • particle technology

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