The application of contact mechanics to the numerical simulation of particulate material

  • Clive W. Randall

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Particulate solids are complex redundant systems which consist of discrete particles. The interactions between the particles are complex and have been the subject of many theoretical and experimental investigations. Invetigations of particulate material have been restricted by the lack of quantitative information on the mechanisms occurring within an assembly. Laboratory experimentation is limited as information on the internal behaviour can only be inferred from measurements on the assembly boundary, or the use of intrusive measuring devices. In addition comparisons between test data are uncertain due to the difficulty in reproducing exact replicas of physical systems. Nevertheless, theoretical and technological advances require more detailed material information. However, numerical simulation affords access to information on every particle and hence the micro-mechanical behaviour within an assembly, and can replicate desired systems. To use a computer program to numerically simulate material behaviour accurately it is necessary to incorporte realistic interaction laws. This research programme used the finite difference simulation program `BALL', developed by Cundall (1971), which employed linear spring force-displacement laws. It was thus necessary to incorporate more realistic interaction laws. Therefore, this research programme was primarily concerned with the implementation of the normal force-displacement law of Hertz (1882) and the tangential force-displacement laws of Mindlin and Deresiewicz (1953). Within this thesis the contact mechanics theories employed in the program are developed and the adaptations which were necessary to incorporate these laws are detailed. Verification of the new contact force-displacement laws was achieved by simulating a quasi-static oblique contact and single particle oblique impact. Applications of the program to the simulation of large assemblies of particles is given, and the problems in undertaking quasi-static shear tests along with the results from two successful shear tests are described.
Date of Award1989
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorC. Thornton (Supervisor)


  • contact mechanics
  • numerical simulation
  • particulate material

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