Numerical investigation of granular flow and dynamic pressure in silos
Although the flow of granular material in silos and the pressure acting on the silo walls have been studied for over a century, many challenges still remain in silo design. In particular, during the discharge process some dynamic phenomena in silos can often be observed to display large, self-induced and dynamic pulsations which may endanger the stability of the silo structure. The aim of this thesis is to study the flow and pressure in silos using numerical modelling and analytical methods, and to further understand the mechanical behaviour of granular material and mechanism of dynamic phenomena during silo discharge. The Finite Element (FE) method can be used to analyse the behaviour of the granular material in silos by considering the material as a continuum. In this thesis, FEM modelling of silo flow was developed using the Arbitrary Lagrangian-Eulerian (ALE) formulation in the Abaqus/Explicit program and the key parameters that affect the predictions of the flow and pressure during discharge were identified. Using the ALE technique, almost the entire silo discharge process can be simulated without mesh distortion problems. The mass flow rate and temporally averaged discharge pressure predicted by the FE model were first investigated in a conical hopper and were found to be in good agreement with those from the most commonly quoted theoretical solutions. The transient dynamic pressure fluctuations during incipient silo discharge were predicted and the causes for these dynamic events have been investigated which led to the conclusion that the stress wave propagation and the moving shear zone phenomena within the bulk solid were responsible for the dominant higher and lower frequencies effects respectively. A one-dimensional dynamic model of granular columns subject to Coulomb wall friction was developed to investigate the propagation of stress waves, focusing on the effect of geometry by examining converging and diverging tapered columns. The analytical solutions of this model are compared to the FE model based on the ALE formulation. This FE model was first validated using the known behaviour for cylindrical columns. In all cases, the stress impulse set off by incipient discharge at the silo outlet grew with the distance travelled up the column, however the rate was shown to depend on the halfangle of the taper. Over a range of small angles, the proposed analytical model was found to accurately predict this behaviour. After the successful application of the ALE technique for a conical hopper, the FE model was extended to simulate the granular flow in a flat-bottomed model silo. The FE predictions were compared with the silo pressure measurements in a model silo (Rotter et al, 2004). Pressure cells mounted along a vertical line on the silo walls were used to measure the pressure distribution in the silo tests using dry sand. The FE model was further extended to simulate the granular flow in a model silo consisting of a cylindrical section with a conical hopper. The prediction was compared with the experimental observations from a model silo (Munch-Andersen et al, 1992), together with the well-known theoretical solutions. Two numerical issues were addressed in some detail: one is the numerical treatment of the abrupt transition between the cylinder section and the conical hopper, the other is the interaction between the granular solid and the silo walls that was modelled using a dynamic friction model. In addition, the dynamic pressure events during discharge were examined and plausible explanations were given. Finally, this thesis deployed a non-coaxial elastoplastic constitutive model to explore the effect of non-coaxiality on silo phenomena. The non-coaxial FE modelling was performed on three problems: a simple shear test under various initial conditions, a steep hopper and a flat-bottomed silo. The results show that non-coaxiality did not influence the prediction of wall pressure during filling and storing, on the other hand, the discharge pressure was predicted to be larger when non-coaxiality is considered.