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Multi-scale multiphase modelling of granular flows



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Soundararajan, Krishna Kumar 


Geophysical hazards usually involve multiphase flow of dense granular solids and water. Understanding the mechanics of granular flow is of particular importance in predicting the run-out behaviour of debris flows. The dynamics of a homogeneous granular flow involve three distinct scales: the microscopic scale, the meso-scale, and the macroscopic scale. Conventionally, granular flows are modelled as a continuum because they exhibit many collective phenomena. Recent studies, however, suggest that a continuum law may be unable to capture the effect of inhomogeneities at the grain scale level, such as orientation of force chains, which are micro-structural effects. Discrete element methods (DEM) are capable of simulating these micro-structural effects, however they are computationally expensive. In the present study, a multi-scale approach is adopted, using both DEM and continuum techniques, to better understand the rheology of granular flows and the limitations of continuum models.

The collapse of a granular column on a horizontal surface is a simple case of granular flow; however, a proper model that describes the flow dynamics is still lacking. In the present study, the generalised interpolation material point method (GIMPM), a hybrid Eulerian – Lagrangian approach, is implemented with the Mohr-Coloumb failure criterion to describe the continuum behaviour of granular flows. The granular column collapse is also simulated using DEM to understand the micro-mechanics of the flow. The limitations of MPM in modelling the flow dynamics are studied by inspecting the energy dissipation mechanisms. The lack of collisional dissipation in the Mohr-Coloumb model results in longer run-out distances for granular flows in dilute regimes (where the mean pressure is low). However, the model is able to capture the rheology of dense granular flows, such as the run-out evolution of slopes subjected to lateral excitation, where the inertial number I < 0.1.

The initiation and propagation of submarine flows depend mainly on the slope, density, and quantity of the material destabilised. Certain macroscopic models are able to capture simple mechanical behaviours, however the complex physical mechanisms that occur at the grain scale, such as hydrodynamic instabilities and formation of clusters, have largely been ignored. In order to describe the mechanism of submarine granular flows, it is important to consider both the dynamics of the solid phase and the role of the ambient fluid. In the present study, a two-dimensional coupled Lattice Boltzmann LBM – DEM technique is developed to understand the micro-scale rheology of granular flows in fluid. Parametric analyses are performed to assess the influence of initial configuration, permeability, and slope of the inclined plane on the flow. The effect of hydrodynamic forces on the run-out evolution is analysed by comparing the energy dissipation and flow evolution between dry and immersed conditions.





engineering, granular flow


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge