Date of Award

Spring 5-2017

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mechanical Engineering


C. Fred Higgs III


Granular media continue to be among the most manipulated materials found in various industries. Particle interactions in granular flow has fundamental importance in analyzing the performance of a wide range of key engineering applications such as hoppers, tumblers, and mixers etc. In spite of such ubiquitous presence, till date, our understanding of the granular flow is very limited. This restricts our ability to design efficient and optimal granular processing equipment. Additionally, the existing design abilities are also constrained by the number of particles to be analyzed, where, a typical industrial application involves millions of particles. This motivated the current research where investigations on the above limitations are pursued from three different angles: experimental, theoretical, and simulation. More specifically, this work aims to study particle-wall interaction and developing a computationally efficient cellular automata simulation framework for industrial granular applications. Towards this end, the current research is divided into two part: (I) energy dissipation during particle-wall interaction (II) cellular automata modeling. In part I, detailed experiments are performed on various sphere-thin plate combinations to measure the coefficient of restitution (COR) which is a measure of energy dissipation and it is one of the most important input parameters in any granular simulation. Alternatively, the energy dissipation measure also used to evaluate the elastic impact performance of superelastic Nitinol 60 material. Explicit finite element simulations are performed to gain detail understanding of the contact process and underlying parameters such as contact forces, stress-strain fields, and energy dissipation modes. A parametric study reveals a critical value of plate thickness above which the effect of plate thickness on the energy dissipation can be eliminated in the equipment design. It is found that the existing analytical expressions has limited applicability in predicting the above experimental and numerical results. Therefore, a new theoretical model for the coefficient of restitution is proposed which combines the effect of plastic deformation and plate thickness (i.e. flexural vibrations). In part II, in order to advance the existing granular flow modeling capabilities for the industry (dry and slurry flows) a cellular automata (CA) modeling framework is developed which can supplement the physically rigorous but computationally demanding discrete element method (DEM). These include a three-dimensional model which takes into account particle friction and spin during collision processing, which provides the ability to handle flows beyond solely the kinetic regime, and a multiphase framework which combines computational fluid dynamics (CFD) with CA to model multi-million particle count applications such as particle-laden flows and slurry flows.

Available for download on Thursday, November 23, 2017