Advancing geomechanics using DEM

C O'Sullivan, Geomechanics from Micro to Macro, Vols I and II, 21-32 (2015).

The particulate Discrete Element Method (DEM) was originally proposed for use in soil mechanics in 1979. It is now extensively used in research across a number of scientific and engineering disciplines, and its use in geomechanics continues to grow. High Performance Computing (HPC) presents a real opportunity to run DEM simulations with greater numbers of particles and more realistic models of the particles and contacts. Appropriate verification problems are essential when developing or adapting code for use with HPC. There is a real need to complement DEM simulations with experimental studies. Care should be taken when using DEM to create models to study soil behaviour; apparently reasonable boundary conditions and model parameters may result in a non-physical mechanical response. Interpreting simulation results within a critical state soil mechanics framework can be useful to identify such shortcomings. DEM enables simulation of complex, three- dimensional stress paths that cannot easily be considered in the laboratory. The macro-scale results of such simulations can inform the development of continuum models for use in practice and the particle scale data enable a better understanding of fundamental mechanisms. Internal erosion is an area where DEM can make a real impact on the design codes used in geotechnical engineering practice. Once an appropriate model is developed, DEM can provide useful insight into the mechanisms that underlie field scale geotechnical problems, such as those associated with tunnelling-induced ground deformation.

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