Evolution of deformation and breakage in sand studied using X-ray tomography

Zeynep Karatza, E. Ando, Stefanos Papanicolopulos, Jin Ooi, G. Viggiani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Particle breakage of a granular material can cause significant changes in its microstructure, which will govern its macroscopic behaviour; this explains why the mechanisms leading to particle breakage have been a common subject within several fields, including geomechanics. In this paper, X-ray computed micro-tomography is used, to obtain three-dimensional images of entire specimens of sand, during high-confinement triaxial compression tests. The acquired images are processed and measurements are made on breakage, local variations of porosity, volumetric strain, maximum shear strain and grading. The evolution and spatial distribution of quantified breakage and the resulting particle size distribution for the whole specimen and for specific areas are presented here for the first time and are further related to the localised shear and volumetric strains. Before peak stress is reached, compaction is the governing mechanism leading to breakage; neither compressive strains nor breakage are significantly localised and the total amount of breakage is rather low. Post peak, in areas where strains localise and breakage is present, a dilative volumetric behaviour is observed locally, as opposed to the overall compaction of the specimen. Some specimens exhibited a compaction around the shear band at the end of the test, but there was no additional breakage at that point. From the grading analysis, it is found that mainly the grains with diameter close to the mean diameter of the specimen are the ones that break, whereas the biggest grains that are present in the specimen remain intact.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-117
Issue number2
Early online date13 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018


  • deformation
  • particle crushing/crushability
  • sands


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