A rapid granular chute avalanche impinging on a small fixed obstacle: DEM modeling, experimental validation and exploration of granular stress

Y. C. Chung, C. W. Wu, C. Y. Kuo, S. S. Hsiau

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19 Scopus citations


Granular flows are constrained by applied stresses. When a granular flow moves rapidly and impinges on an obstacle, the stress is significantly increased along the contact force networks. Granular stresses are still incompletely understood. The aim of this study is to investigate a rapid avalanche of spherical glass beads in an inclined chute with a small fixed semi-cylindrical obstacle by using particle image velocimetry (PIV) technique and discrete element method (DEM). The proposed DEM model produces good agreement with the corresponding avalanche experiment in terms of the velocity profiles. The validated DEM results are then used to explore the internal flow characteristics of a granular avalanche that are not directly observable in experiments, such as the solid fraction, the average coordination number and the granular stress. Rectangular measurement cells, similar to representative volume elements, are developed to determine the spatial variation in stresses for the granular avalanche. The internal flow characteristics of a rapid granular avalanche with and without obstacles are compared. For the unobstructed flow, the normal and shear stresses decrease in the downstream direction because the solid fraction and the average coordination number decrease, resulting from the gravitational acceleration. On the other hand, granular jamming forms in front of the semi-cylindrical obstacle and results in a significant increase in the normal and shear stresses. The unobstructed flow shows slightly anisotropic stress states, giving an earth pressure coefficient of approximately 1.0, whereas the disturbed flow exhibits strongly anisotropic stress states. The simulation results show that the corresponding earth pressure coefficient can be much higher than unity and increases to a maximum value of roughly 5.0. A shear band develops at a distance of roughly twice the particle diameter above the basal surface and a stronger shear band forms in the upstream vicinity of the obstacle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)540-568
Number of pages29
JournalApplied Mathematical Modelling
StatePublished - Oct 2019


  • Discrete element modeling
  • Experimental validation
  • Granular stress
  • Rapid granular avalanche
  • Small fixed obstacle


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