Generation of 3D representative volume elements for heterogeneous materials: A review

Swantje Bargmann*, Benjamin Klusemann, Jürgen Markmann, Jan Eike Schnabel, Konrad Schneider, Celal Soyarslan, Jana Wilmers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

230 Citations (Scopus)
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This work reviews state of the art representative volume element (RVE) generation techniques for heterogeneous materials. To this end, we present a systematic classification considering a wide range of heterogeneous materials of engineering interest. Here, we divide heterogeneous solids into porous and non-porous media, with 0 < void volume fraction < 1 and void volume fraction = 0, respectively. Further subdivisions are realized based on various morphological features. The corresponding generation methods are classified into three categories: (i) experimental methods targeting reconstruction through experimental characterization of the microstructure, (ii) physics based methods targeting simulation of the physical process(es) responsible for the microstructure formation and evolution, and (iii) geometrical methods concentrating solely on mimicking the morphology (ignoring the physical basis of the microstructure formation process). These comprise of various mathematical tools such as digital image correlation, tessellation, random field generation, and differential equation solvers. For completeness, relevant up-to-date software tools, used at various stages of RVE generation – either commercial or open-source – are summarized. Considered methods are reviewed based on their efficiency and predictive performance with respect to geometrical and topological properties of the microstructures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-384
Number of pages63
JournalProgress in Materials Science
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Agglomerate
  • Aggregate
  • Closed cell structure
  • Fiber reinforced composite
  • Lamellar
  • Matrix-inclusion composite
  • Metamaterial
  • Microstructure
  • Nanocomposite
  • Nanoporous metal
  • Open cell structure
  • Polycrystal
  • Porous media
  • Representative volume element
  • RVE generation


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