Skip to main content

Modelling of Capillary Pressure-driven Water Flow in Unsaturated Concrete Using Coupled DEM/CFD Approach

  • Conference paper
  • First Online:
Multiscale Processes of Instability, Deformation and Fracturing in Geomaterials (IWBDG 2022)


A novel coupled approach to modelling capillary-driven two-phase water flow in unsaturated concrete was formulated. By merging the discrete element method (DEM) with computational fluid dynamics (CFD) under isothermal settings, the process was numerically studied at the me-so-scale in two-dimensional conditions. Small concrete specimens of a simplified particle meso-structure were subjected to fully coupled hydro-mechanical simulation tests in isothermal conditions. A simple uniaxial compression test was used to calibrate the pure DEM represented by bonded spheres, while permeability and sorptivity tests for an assembly of bonded spheres were used to calibrate the pure CFD. For simplified specimens of the pure mortar, mortar with aggregate, and mortar with aggregate and interfacial transition zone (ITZ) of a given thickness, DEM/CFD simulations were performed sequentially. The numerical results of permeability and sorptivity were compared to the data found in the literature. The primary purpose of the re-search was to demonstrate the impact of ITZ on fluid flow in unsaturated concrete caused by capillary pressure.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or eBook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
USD 189.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 249.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info
Hardcover Book
USD 249.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Bentz, D.P., Stutzman, P.E., Garboczi, E.J.: Experimental and simulation studies of the interfacial zone in concrete. Cem. Conc. Res. 22(5), 891–902 (1992)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Li, K., Stroeven, P., Stroeven, M., Sluys, L.J.: A numerical investigation into the influence of the interfacial transition zone on the permeability of partially saturated cement paste between aggregate surfaces. Cem. Concr. Res. 102, 99–108 (2017)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Krzaczek, M., Nitka, M., Kozicki, J., Tejchman, J.: Simulations of hydro-fracking in rock mass at meso-scale using fully coupled DEM/CFD approach. Acta Geotech. 15(2), 297–324 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Krzaczek, M., Nitka, M., Tejchman, J.: Effect of gas content in macro-pores on hydraulic fracturing in rocks using a fully coupled DEM/CFD approach. Int. J. Numer. Anal. Meth. Geomech. 45(2), 234–264 (2021)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Kozicki, J., Donzé, F.V.: A new open-source software developer for numerical simulations using discrete modeling methods. Comput. Methods Appl. Mech. Eng. 197, 4429–4443 (2008)

    Article  MATH  Google Scholar 

  6. Nitka, M., Tejchman, J.: A three-dimensional meso scale approach to concrete fracture based on combined DEM with X-ray μCT images. Cem. Concr. Res. 107, 11–29 (2018)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Suchorzewski, J., Tejchman, J., Nitka, M.: Discrete element method simulations of fracture in concrete under uniaxial compression based on its real internal structure. Int. J. Damage Mech 27(4), 578–607 (2018)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Suchorzewski, J., Tejchman, J., Nitka, M.: Experimental and numerical investigations of concrete behaviour at meso-level during quasi-static splitting tension. Theoret. Appl. Fract. Mech. 96, 720–739 (2018)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Washburn, E.W.: The dynamics of capillary flow. Phys. Rev. 17, 273 (1921)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Abdi, R., Krzaczek, M., Tejchman, J.: Comparative study of high-pressure fluid flow in densely packed granules using a 3D CFD model in a continuous medium and a simplified 2D DEM-CFD approach. Granular Matter 24(1), 1–25 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Nitka, M., Tejchman, J.: Meso-mechanical modelling of damage in concrete using discrete element method with porous ITZs of defined width around aggregates. Eng. Fract. Mech. 231, 107029 (2020)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Zamani, S., Kowalczyk, R.M., McDonald, P.J.: The relative humidity dependence of the permeability of cement paste measured using GARField NMR profiling. Cem. Concr. Res. 57, 88–94 (2014)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Kameche, Z.A., Ghomari, F., Choinska, M., Khelidj, A.: Assessment of liquid water and gas permeabilities of partially saturated ordinary concrete. Constr. Build. Mater. 65, 551–565 (2014)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Hall, C.: Water sorptivity of mortars and concretes: a review. Mag. Concr. Res. 41(147), 1–61 (1989)

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The present study was supported by the research project “Fracture propagation in rocks during hydro-fracking—experiments and discrete element method coupled with fluid flow and heat transport” (years 2019–2022) financed by the National Science Centre (NCN) (UMO-2018/29/B/ST8/00255).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Marek Krzaczek .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2023 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this paper

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this paper

Krzaczek, M., Nitka, M., Tejchman, J. (2023). Modelling of Capillary Pressure-driven Water Flow in Unsaturated Concrete Using Coupled DEM/CFD Approach. In: Pasternak, E., Dyskin, A. (eds) Multiscale Processes of Instability, Deformation and Fracturing in Geomaterials. IWBDG 2022. Springer Series in Geomechanics and Geoengineering. Springer, Cham.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-031-22212-2

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-031-22213-9

  • eBook Packages: EngineeringEngineering (R0)

Publish with us

Policies and ethics