Insight into Contact Forces in Crushable Sand using Experiments and Predictive Particle-Scale Modeling

John M. Harmon, Dawa Seo, Giuseppe Buscarnera, José E. Andrade*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


In this paper we endeavor to predict the evolving statistics of inter-particle contact forces during comminution using grain-scale computational modeling. First, a validation is carried out by creating a one-To-one virtual avatar of an Ottawa sand specimen from 3D X-ray tomography with level sets and comparing the data from an oedometric test to the model's prediction. The predictive capabilities are confirmed from comparing the constitutive response, grain size distribution and changes in particle shapes in both the experiment and model. Once validated, we delve into the predicted contact forces and particle stresses. We find that the largest particles experience the largest forces. Despite larger particles being weaker on average, many survive due to being on the stronger side of the particle strength distribution and also having a higher coordination number producing a more isotropic stress state in the particle. These highest forces are largely aligned with the specimen axis demonstrating that larger particles provide the strength in the loading direction. Meanwhile forces in the radial direction are more broadly distributed indicating small particles play a significant part in providing radial stability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Discrete-element modelling
  • Fabric/structure of soils
  • Particle crushing/crushability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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