Influence of particle contact models on soil response of poorly graded sand during cavity expansion in discrete element simulation

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Journal Article
Journal of Rock Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, 2018
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© 2018 Institute of Rock and Soil Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences The discrete element method (DEM) has been extensively adopted to investigate many complex geotechnical related problems due to its capability to incorporate the discontinuous nature of granular materials. In particular, when simulating large deformations or distortion of soil (e.g. cavity expansion), DEM can be very effective as other numerical solutions may experience convergence problems. Cavity expansion theory has widespread applications in geotechnical engineering, particularly to the problems concerning in situ testing, pile installation and so forth. In addition, the behaviour of geomaterials in a macro-level is utterly determined by microscopic properties, highlighting the importance of contact models. Despite the fact that there are numerous contact models proposed to mimic the realistic behaviour of granular materials, there are lack of studies on the effects of these contact models on the soil response. Hence, in this study, a series of three-dimensional numerical simulations with different contact constitutive models was conducted to simulate the response of sandy soils during cylindrical cavity expansion. In this numerical investigation, three contact models, i.e. linear contact model, rolling resistance contact model, and Hertz contact model, are considered. It should be noted that the former two models are linear based models, providing linearly elastic and frictional plasticity behaviours, whereas the latter one consists of nonlinear formulation based on an approximation of the theory of Mindlin and Deresiewicz. To examine the effects of these contact models, several cylindrical cavities were created and expanded gradually from an initial radius of 0.055 m to a final radius of 0.1 m. The numerical predictions confirm that the calibrated contact models produced similar results regarding the variations of cavity pressure, radial stress, deviatoric stress, volumetric strain, as well as the soil radial displacement. However, the linear contact model may result in inaccurate predictions when highly angular soil particles are involved. In addition, considering the excessive soil displacement induced by the pile installation (i.e. cavity expansion), a minimum distance of 11a (a is the cavity radius) is recommend for practicing engineers to avoid the potential damages to the existing piles and adjacent structures.
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