Discrete element simulation of dynamic behaviour of partially saturated sand

  • E. A. Flores-Johnson
  • S. Wang
  • F. Maggi
  • A. El Zein
  • Y. Gan
  • G. D. Nguyen
  • Luming Shen


The discrete element method (DEM) together with the finite element method (FEM) in LS-DYNA was employed to investigate the dynamic behaviour of sand under impact loading. In this approach, the partially saturated sand was modelled in DEM with capillary forces being taken into account through an implicit capillary contact model, while other solids were simulated using FEM. A slump test was first performed with dry sand to calibrate the contact parameters in DEM. Low velocity impact tests were then conducted to investigate the effect of water saturation on the shape and height of sand piles after impact, and to validate the simulations. It was found in the experiments that an increasing water saturation (in the range between 10 and 30 %) affected the height of sand pile for a given drop height due to an increasing cohesion between particles. The simulations captured the experimental ejecta patterns and sand pile height. Finally, a low confinement split Hopkinson pressure bar test from earlier literature was modelled; the DEM–FEM simulations could reproduce the trends of experimentally observed stress–strain curves of partially saturated sand under high strain rate loading, indicating that it was feasible to model dynamic behaviour of dry and wet sand with low saturation (<20 %) in LS-DYNA; however, a number of questions remain open about the effect of grain shape, grain crushing and viscosity.


Partially saturated sand Impact Capillary force Discrete element method DEM–FEM simulation LS-DYNA 



This work was supported in part by the Australian Research Council Discovery Projects (DP140100945), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 11232003). This research was undertaken with the assistance of resources from the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI), which is supported by the Australian Government.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. A. Flores-Johnson
    • 1
  • S. Wang
    • 1
  • F. Maggi
    • 1
  • A. El Zein
    • 1
  • Y. Gan
    • 1
  • G. D. Nguyen
    • 2
  • Luming Shen
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Civil EngineeringThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.School of Civil, Environmental and Mining EngineeringThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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