A numerical analysis of the micromechanical behaviour of a granular material is described using a new program MASOM based on Cundall's discrete element method. In the analysis the individual grains which make up the material are taken to be deformable 2D polygons of arbitrary size and shape. Contact forces between the grains are calculated according to Mindlin's solution for frictional contact between elastic bodies. The material in each grain is taken to be linear elastic but limited by the fracture strength of the material. Fracture is permitted along any one of a number of candidate fracture planes if an associated compressive load tending to split the gain reaches a critical level. Fragments of fractured grains are carried until they become too small to track using the explicit time integration algorithm used to advance the solution. The MASOM program is able to consider a number of different classes of elements and different types of contact between the various classes. Thus, in addition to the granular material the program can also model containers and loading devices. The program is used to simulate uniaxial and triaxial compression tests for geological materials. The results are shown to give results for stress‐strain and stress difference versus pressure which are in qualitative agreement with test data. The numerical results reveal a very complex micromechanical behaviour in granular materials, including highly variable and rather unstable load paths and a very inhomogeneous load distribution within a representative sample of the material. A video of the response of a typical frictional material to applied loads shows an interesting localized effect near sample boundaries involving crowding together of grains which cannot be observed using conventional static field plots.
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