Temporal variation of contact networks in granular materials

Kevin J. Hanley, Xin Huang, Catherine O'Sullivan, Fiona C. Y. Kwok

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For analogue granular materials simulated using DEM, contact networks are often drawn by joining the centroids of contacting particles. Although a limited amount of research has been done to characterise the temporal aspects of such contact networks at a micro-scale, many simple questions regarding the duration of contacts in evolving granular systems remain unanswered. This paper addresses this gap in the existing knowledge by using the open-source code LAMMPS to run and analyse nine (3D) triaxial simulations of 20,164 polydisperse spherical particles. Contacts which exist for a long duration are preferentially oriented in the direction of the major principal stress while the fabric anisotropy for contacts with a given duration increases with duration. Regardless of simulation conditions, there is a linear relationship between the percentage of contacts present for a given duration and contact duration, despite the non-linear overall behaviour of the material. The forces transmitted by contacts increase, on average, with increasing duration. The total number of unique contacts which appear during triaxial compression increases linearly after 10% axial strain, although the number of contacts, both total and subdivided into strong and weak force subnetworks, remains quite stable. The majority of contacts in these evolving granular systems, even those participating in strong force chains, are formed and lost repeatedly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-54
Number of pages14
JournalGranular Matter
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Discrete element modelling
  • Dynamic networks
  • Triaxial simulations
  • Contact duration
  • Granular materials

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