Mechanical properties of granular materials: A variational approach to grain-scale simulations

R. Holtzman*, D. B. Silin, T. W. Patzek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The mechanical properties of cohesionless granular materials are evaluated from grain-scale simulations. A three-dimensional pack of spherical grains is loaded by incremental displacements of its boundaries. The deformation is described as a sequence of equilibrium configurations. Each configuration is characterized by a minimum of the total potential energy. This minimum is computed using a modification of the conjugate gradient algorithm. Our simulations capture the nonlinear, path-dependent behavior of granular materials observed in experiments. Micromechanical analysis provides valuable insight into phenomena such as hysteresis, strain hardening and stress-induced anisotropy. Estimates of the effective bulk modulus, obtained with no adjustment of material parameters, are in agreement with published experimental data. The model is applied to evaluate the effects of hydrate dissociation in marine sediments. Weakening of the sediment is quantified as a reduction in the effective elastic moduli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)391-404
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal for Numerical and Analytical Methods in Geomechanics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 25 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Grain-scale simulations
  • Granular matter
  • Hydrate dissociation
  • Micromechanics
  • Quasi-static deformation
  • Variational approach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Mechanics
  • General Materials Science
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Mechanics of Materials


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