Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

The Sensitivity of Micro—Macro Mechanical Behaviour of Sand to the Inter-Particle Properties

Momeni, Ali; Eshiet, Kenneth Imo-Imo Israel; Sheng, Yong


Ali Momeni

Kenneth Imo-Imo Israel Eshiet


Sand is a particulate material but is treated as a continuum solid in some engineering
analyses. This approach is proven to be acceptable when dealing with geotechnical structures,
provided an adequate factor of safety is applied so that there is no risk of failure. However, the
continuum approach does not account for the effect of interparticle forces on the micro–macro
behaviour of sand. Sand could be modelled as a particulate material using the discrete element
method (DEM), taking into account its discrete nature. This paper shows how the microscopic
contact properties between the idealised sand particles influence the macro-mechanical behaviour,
highlighting the development of the fabric as the soil approaches failure. Thirty DEM biaxial tests
were performed to study the sensitivity of the macro–micro mechanical properties of sand to the
inter-particle properties of an idealised sand particle. The conditions of these simulations were the
same (e.g., particle size distribution, number of particles, porosity after radius enlargement, boundary
conditions, and rate of loading). The sensitivity of the pre-peak, peak, and post-peak behaviour of
these simulations to the inter-particle properties of an idealised sand particle was studied. Two extra
DEM biaxial tests under different confining pressures were performed to verify the cohesionless
nature of the synthetic material used for this study. Since a two-dimensional DEM is used for this
study, a detailed approach to interpret the results assuming either a plane strain or a plane stress
situation was discussed. This study highlighted the critical inter-particle properties and the range
over which these influence macro-mechanical behaviour. The results show that Young’s modulus is
mainly dependent on the normal contact stiffness, and peak stress and the angle of internal friction
are greatly dependent on the inter-particle coefficient of friction, while Poisson’s ratio and volumetric
behaviour of particulate sand are dictated mainly by shear contact stiffness. A set of relationships
were established between inter-particle properties and macro-machinal parameters such as Young’s
modulus, Poisson’s ratio, and angle of internal friction. The elastoplastic parameters obtained from
these tests are qualitatively in agreement with the typical medium and dense sand behaviour.


Momeni, A., Eshiet, K. I. I., & Sheng, Y. (2023). The Sensitivity of Micro—Macro Mechanical Behaviour of Sand to the Inter-Particle Properties. Geotechnics, 3(2), 416-445.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 17, 2023
Online Publication Date May 21, 2023
Publication Date Jun 1, 2023
Deposit Date May 23, 2023
Publicly Available Date May 25, 2023
Journal Geotechnics
Print ISSN 2673-7094
Publisher MDPI
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 3
Issue 2
Pages 416-445
Keywords Discrete element method; Idealised sand; Biaxial test; Macro-mechanical stress and strain; Inter-particle properties; Plane strain; Plane stress; Fabric anisotropy; Coordination number
Public URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations