Plastic deformation of granular materials is investigated from the micromechanical viewpoint, in which the assembly of particles and interparticle contacts is considered as a mechanical structure. This is done in three ways. Firstly, by investigating the degree of redundancy of the system by comparing the number of force degrees of freedom at contacts with the number of governing equilibrium equations; Secondly, by determining the spectrum of eigenvalues of the stiffness matrix for the structure that is represented by the particles and their contacts; Thirdly, by investigating the evolution with imposed strain of the continuum elastic stiffness tensor of the system. It is found that, with increasing imposed strain, the degree of redundancy rapidly evolves towards a state with small redundancy, i.e. the system becomes nearly statically determinate. The spectrum of the system shows many singular and near-singular modes at peak shear strength and at large strain. The continuum elastic stiffness tensor becomes strongly anisotropic with increasing imposed strain and shows strong non-affinity of deformation. The assumption of a constant and isotropic elastic stiffness tensor in elasto-plastic continuum constitutive relations for granular materials is generally incorrect. Overall, the plastic continuum behaviour of granular materials originates from the plastic frictional behaviour at contacts and from damage in the form of changes in the contact network.
- Granular media