Purdue University Graduate School
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Experimental Validation of Non-Cohesive Soil using Discrete Element Method

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posted on 2019-01-16, 18:48 authored by Ayan RoyAyan Roy

In this thesis, an explicit time integration code which integrates multibody dynamics (MBD) and the discrete element method (DEM) is validated using three previously published steady-state physical experiments for non-cohesive sand-type material, namely: shear-cell for measuring shear stress versus normal stress; penetroplate pressure-sinkage test; and wheel drawbar pull-torque-slip test. The test results are used to calibrate the material properties of the DEM soft soil model and validate the coupled MBD-DEM code. All three tests are important because each test measures specific mechanical characteristics of the soil under various loading conditions. Shear strength of the soil as a function of normal load help to understand shearing of the soil under a vehicle wheel contact patch causing loss of traction. Penetroplate pressure-sinkage test is used to calibrate and validate friction and shear strength characteristics of the soil. Finally the rigid wheel-soil interaction test is used to predict drawbar pull force and wheel torque vs. slip percentage and normal stress for a rigid wheel. Wheel-Soil interaction test is important because it plays the role of ultimate validation of the soil model tuned in the previous two experiments and also shows how the soil model behaves in vehicle mobility applications.

All the aforementioned tests were modeled in the multibody dynamics software using rigid bodies and various joints and actuators. The sand-type material is modeled using discrete cubical particles. A penalty technique is used to impose normal contact constraints (including particle-particle and particle-wall contact). An asperity-based friction model is used to model friction. A Cartesian Eulerian grid contact search algorithm is used to allow fast contact detection between particles. A recursive bounding box contact search algorithm enabled fast contact detection between the particles and polygonal body surfaces (such as walls, penetrometer, and wheel). The governing equations of motion are solved along with contact constraint equations using a time-accurate explicit solution procedure. The results show very good agreement between the simulation and the experimental measurements. The model is then demonstrated in a full-scale application of high-speed off-road vehicle mobility on the sand-type soil.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering


  • Mechanical Engineering

Campus location

  • Indianapolis

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Tamer Wasfy

Additional Committee Member 2

Andres Tovar

Additional Committee Member 3

Hanzim El-Mounyari

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