Micromechanical study of elastic moduli of loose granular materials

Nicolaas P. Kruyt, I. Agnolin, Stefan Luding, L. Rothenburg

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In micromechanics of the elastic behaviour of granular materials, the macro-scale continuum elastic moduli are expressed in terms of micro-scale parameters, such as coordination number (the average number of contacts per particle) and interparticle contact stiffnesses in normal and tangential directions. It is well-known that mean-field theory gives inaccurate micromechanical predictions of the elastic moduli, especially for loose systems with low coordination number. Improved predictions of the moduli are obtained here for loose two-dimensional, isotropic assemblies. This is achieved by determining approximate displacement and rotation fields from the force and moment equilibrium conditions for small sub-assemblies of various sizes. It is assumed that the outer particles of these sub-assemblies move according to the mean field. From the particle displacement and rotation fields thus obtained, approximate elastic moduli are determined. The resulting predictions are compared with the true moduli, as determined from the discrete element method simulations for low coordination numbers and for various values of the tangential stiffness (at fixed value of the normal stiffness). Using this approach, accurate predictions of the moduli are obtained, especially when larger sub-assemblies are considered. As a step towards an analytical formulation of the present approach, it is investigated whether it is possible to replace the local contact stiffness matrices by a suitable average stiffness matrix. It is found that this generally leads to a deterioration of the accuracy of the predictions. Many micromechanical studies predict that the macroscopic bulk modulus is hardly influenced by the value of the tangential stiffness. It is shown here from the discrete element method simulations of hydrostatic compression that for loose systems, the bulk modulus strongly depends on the stiffness ratio for small stiffness ratios.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)1286-1301
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of the mechanics and physics of solids
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • METIS-269220
  • Elastic material
  • Energy methods
  • Microstructures
  • Granular material
  • Constitutive behaviour
  • IR-80375

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