Numerical characterization of cohesive and non-cohesive ‘sediments’ under different consolidation states using 3d dem triaxial experiments

Hadar Elyashiv, Revital Bookman, Lennart Siemann, Uri Ten Brink, Katrin Huhn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Discrete Element Method has been widely used to simulate geo-materials due to time and scale limitations met in the field and laboratories. While cohesionless geo-materials were the focus of many previous studies, the deformation of cohesive geo-materials in 3D remained poorly characterized. Here, we aimed to generate a range of numerical ‘sediments’, assess their mechanical response to stress and compare their response with laboratory tests, focusing on differences between the micro-and macro-material properties. We simulated two endmembers—clay (cohesive) and sand (cohesionless). The materials were tested in a 3D triaxial numerical setup, under different simulated burial stresses and consolidation states. Variations in particle contact or individual bond strengths generate first order influence on the stress–strain response, i.e., a different deformation style of the numerical sand or clay. Increased burial depth generates a second order influence, elevating peak shear strength. Loose and dense consolidation states generate a third order influence of the endmember level. The results replicate a range of sediment compositions, empirical behaviors and conditions. We propose a procedure to characterize sediments numerically. The numerical ‘sediments’ can be applied to simulate processes in sediments exhibiting variations in strength due to post-seismic consolidation, bioturbation or variations in sedimentation rates.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1252
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research received no external funding. Acknowledgments: HE would like to thank Jannis Kuhlmann and Ricarda Gatter for their review and valuable comments. In addition, we thank Adrian Garcia and three anonymous reviewers for their useful comments. Use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. government.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Cohesion
  • Consolidation state
  • DEM
  • Peak shear strength
  • Sediments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Chemical Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Process Chemistry and Technology


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