Bridging the length scales: Micromechanics of granular media

A. Tordesillas, S. D C Walsh, B. S. Gardiner

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16 Citations (Scopus)


Aristotle's statement that "the whole is more than the sum of its parts" aptly describes the essence of a granular material's rich and complex behaviour, which ultimately arises from internal mechanisms developed on many length scales. Recently, non-invasive experimental studies have given remarkable insight into the evolution of these mechanisms, thereby providing benchmarks and a unique opportunity for the theoretical modelling of these systems. This paper focuses on the challenges of capturing these multiscale mechanisms within the framework of continuum theory. In particular, a new approach toward developing a non-local micropolar constitutive model of granular media using micromechanics and internal variable theory is discussed. To demonstrate the predictive potential of these models, we present their application in the analysis of two fundamental problems to the mechanics of granular media: (i) formation and evolution of shear bands (the precursors of material failure), (ii) the classical Flamant problem. Finally, we briefly discuss the computational challenges in bridging the gap between micromechanical studies of granular media and the applications of continuum theory on the macro-scale via a finite element analysis of the flat punch problem. In practice, this problem is used to assess the load bearing capacity of a material and is fundamental to civil and structural engineering.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)539-556
Number of pages18
JournalBIT Numerical Mathematics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • finite element method
  • granular materials
  • internal variable theory
  • micropolar
  • microstructure
  • shear band

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