Network flow model of force transmission in unbonded and bonded granular media

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Tordesillas, Antoinette
Behringer, Robert P

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An established aspect of force transmission in quasistatic deformation of granular media is the existence of a dual network of strongly versus weakly loaded particles. Despite significant interest, the regulation of strong and weak forces through the contact network remains poorly understood. We examine this aspect of force transmission using data on microstructural fabric from: (I) three-dimensional discrete element models of grain agglomerates of bonded subspheres constructed from in situ synchrotron microtomography images of silica sand grains under unconfined compression and (II) two-dimensional assemblies of unbonded photoelastic circular disks submitted to biaxial compression under constant volume. We model force transmission as a network flow and solve the maximum flow-minimum cost (MFMC) problem, the solution to which yields a percolating subnetwork of contacts that transmits the "maximum flow" (i.e., the highest units of force) at "least cost" (i.e., the dissipated energy from such transmission). We find the MFMC describes a two-tier hierarchical architecture. At the local level, it encapsulates intraconnections between particles in individual force chains and in their conjoined 3-cycles, with the most common configuration having at least one force chain contact experiencing frustrated rotation. At the global level, the MFMC encapsulates interconnections between force chains. The MFMC can be used to predict most of the force chain particles without need for any information on contact forces, thereby suggesting the network flow framework may have potential broad utility in the modeling of force transmission in unbonded and bonded granular media.






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Tordesillas, Antoinette, Steven T Tobin, Mehmet Cil, Khalid Alshibli and Robert P Behringer (2015). Network flow model of force transmission in unbonded and bonded granular media. Physical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics, 91(6). 10.1103/PhysRevE.91.062204 Retrieved from

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