The deformation characteristics of idealized granular materials have been studied from the micro-mechanical viewpoint, using Bagi’s three-dimensional micro-mechanical formulation for the strain tensor [Bagi, K., 1996. Mechanics of Materials 22, 165–177]. This formulation is based on the Delaunay tessellation of space into tetrahedra. The set of edges of the tetrahedra can be divided into physical contacts and virtual contacts between particles. Bagi’s formulation expresses the continuum, macro-scale strain as an average over all edges, of their relative displacements (between two successive states) and the complementary-area vectors. This latter vector is a geometrical quantity determined from the set of edges, i.e. from the structure of the particle packing. Results from Discrete Element Method simulations of isotropic and triaxial loading of a three-dimensional polydisperse packing of spheres have been used to investigate statistics of the branch vectors and complementary-area vectors of edges (subdivided into physical and virtual contacts) and of the relative displacements of edges. The investigated statistics are probability density functions and averages over groups of edges with the same orientation. It is shown that these averages can be represented by second-order Fourier series in edge orientation. Edge orientations are distributed isotropically, contrary to contact orientations. The average lengths of the branch vectors and the normal component of the complementary-area vectors are distributed isotropically (with respect to the edge orientation) and their average values are related to each other and to the volume fraction of the assembly. The other two components of the complementary-area vector are zero on average. The total deformation of the assembly, as given by the average of the relative displacements of the edges of the Delaunay tessellation follows the uniform-strain prediction. However, neither the deformation of the physical contact network nor of the virtual contact network has this property. The average relative displacement of physical edges in the normal direction (determined by the branch vector) is smaller than that according to the uniform-strain assumption, while that of virtual contacts is larger. This is caused by the high interparticle stiffness that hinders compression. The reverse observation holds for the tangential component of the relative displacement vector. The contribution of the deformation of the empty space between physical contacts to the continuum, macro-scale strain tensor is therefore very important for the understanding and the prediction of the macro-scale deformation of granular materials.
- Granular materials