Hopper flow of irregularly shaped particles (non-convex polyhedra): GPU-based DEM simulation and experimental validation

Nicolin Govender*, Daniel N. Wilke, Chuan-Yu Wu, Johannes Khinast, Patrick Pizette, Wenjie Xu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Numerous practical applications of the Discrete Element Method (DEM) require a flexible description of particles that can account for irregular and non-convex particle shape features. Capturing the particle non-convexity is important since it allows to model the physical interlocking when the particles are in contact. To that end, the most flexible approach to capture the particle shape is via a polyhedron, which provides a faceted representation of any shape, albeit at a significant computational cost. In this study we present a decomposition approach to modeling non-convex polyhedral particles as an extension of an existing open source convex polyhedral discrete element code, BlazeDEM-GPU, which computes using general purpose graphical processing units (GPGPUs). Although the principle of decomposition of non-convex particles into convex particles is not new, its application by the discrete element modeling community has been rather limited. The non-convex extension of BlazeDEM-GPU was validated using a hopper flow experiment with identical convex and identical non-convex 3D printed particles. The experiment was designed around two sensitive flow points, with the convex particles following the intermittent flow and the non-convex particles forming stable arches. It was demonstrated that the DEM simulations can be applied to reproduce both the convex and the non-convex flow behavior using the same parameter set. This study is a significant step towards general computing of non-convex particles for industrial-scale applications using the GPGPUs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-51
JournalChemical Engineering Science
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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