Computational Particle Mechanics

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 55–84 | Cite as

Grains3D, a flexible DEM approach for particles of arbitrary convex shape—Part III: extension to non-convex particles modelled as glued convex particles

  • Andriarimina Daniel Rakotonirina
  • Jean-Yves Delenne
  • Farhang Radjai
  • Anthony WachsEmail author


Large-scale numerical simulation using the discrete element method (DEM) contributes to improving our understanding of granular flow dynamics involved in many industrial processes and geophysical flows. In industry, it leads to an enhanced design and an overall optimization of the corresponding equipment and process. Most of the DEM simulations in the literature have been performed using spherical particles. A limited number of studies dealt with non-spherical particles, even less with non-convex particles. Even convex bodies do not always represent the real shape of certain particles. In fact, more complex-shaped particles are found in many industrial applications, for example, catalytic pellets in chemical reactors or crushed glass debris in recycling processes. In Grains3D-Part I (Wachs et al. in Powder Technol 224:374–389, 2012), we addressed the problem of convex shape in granular simulations, while in Grains3D-Part II (Rakotonirina and Wachs in Powder Technol 324:18–35, 2018), we suggested a simple though efficient parallel strategy to compute systems with up to a few hundreds of millions of particles. The aim of the present study is to extend even further the modelling capabilities of Grains3D towards non-convex shapes, as a tool to examine the flow dynamics of granular media made of non-convex particles. Our strategy is based on decomposing a non-convex-shaped particle into a set of convex bodies, called elementary components. We call our method glued or clumped convex method, as an extension of the popular glued sphere method. Essentially, a non-convex particle is constructed as a cluster of convex particles, called elementary components. At the level of these elementary components of a glued convex particle, we employ the same contact detection strategy based on a Gilbert–Johnson–Keerthi algorithm and a linked-cell spatial sorting that accelerates the resolution of the contact, that we introduced in [39]. Our glued convex model is implemented as a new module of our code Grains3D and is therefore automatically fully parallel. We illustrate the new modelling capabilities of Grains3D in two test cases: (1) the filling of a container and (2) the flow dynamics in a rotating drum.


Granular flow Discrete element method Non-convex shape GJK algorithm Glued convex 



We would like to thank Prof. Neil Balmforth, University of British Columbia, Canada, for giving us access to his rotating drum experimental set-up and for providing assistance to conduct the experiments. We also would like to acknowledge the help and continuous support of Dr. Abdelkader Hammouti, IFP Energies nouvelles, France, in sharpening up this paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflicts of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

40571_2018_198_MOESM1_ESM.mp4 (2.5 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (mp4 2524 KB)


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Copyright information

© OWZ 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fluid Mechanics DepartmentIFP Energies nouvellesSolaizeFrance
  2. 2.Department of MathematicsUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Department of Chemical and Biological EngineeringUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  4. 4.IATE, UMR 1208 INRA – CIRAD – Montpellier SupagroUniversité Montpellier 2Montpellier CedexFrance
  5. 5.CNRS, LMGC UMR 5508University Montpellier 2Montpellier CedexFrance
  6. 6.MultiScale Material Science for Energy and Environment, UMI 3466 CNRS-MIT, DCEEMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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