Improvements for the smooth joint contact model of the particle flow code and its applications

Mohammad Hadi Mehranpour, Pinnaduwa H.S.W. Kulatilake

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


This paper deals with two shortcomings of the smooth-joint contact model (SJCM) used in the particle flow code (PFC). The first shortcoming is the increase of the shear strength of the joint when the shear displacement of the joint exceeds a specific value that is related to the particle size. This problem is named as the interlocking problem, which is caused by the interlocking particles. It occurs due to a shortcoming of the updating procedure in the PFC software related to the contact conditions of the particles that lie around the intended joint plane during high shear displacements. This problem also increases the dilation angle and creates unwanted fractures around the intended joint plane. To solve this problem two new approaches are proposed in this paper: (1) joint plane checking (JPC) approach and (2) joint sides checking (JSC) approach. These approaches and the regular approach are used to model: (a) the direct shear test using the PFC2D and PFC3D, (b) the biaxial test on a sample having a persistent joint with a dip angle varying from 0° to 90° at an interval of 15° using the PFC2D and (c) the polyaxial test on two samples, one of them having a joint with a dip direction of 0° and the dip angle varying from 0° to 90° at an interval of 15°, and the other sample having a joint with a dip angle of 60° and the dip direction varying from 0° to 90° at an interval of 15° using the PFC3D. All numerical results show that the JPC and JSC approaches can solve the interlocking problem. Also, they proved to be more consistent with the theory compared to the regular approach. However, the JPC approach leads to a slightly softer joint. Therefore, the JSC approach is suggested for jointed rock modeling using the PFC. The other shortcoming of the SJCM dealt within this paper is its inability to capture the non-linear behavior of the joint closure varying with the joint normal stress. This problem is solved in this paper by proposing a new modified smooth-joint contact model (MSJCM). MSJCM uses a linear relation between the joint normal stiffness and the normal contact stress to model the non-linear relation between the joint normal deformation and the joint normal stress observed in the compression joint normal stiffness test. A good agreement obtained between the results from the experimental test and the numerical modeling of the compression joint normal test shows the accuracy of this new model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-177
Number of pages15
JournalComputers and Geotechnics
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017


  • Anisotropic jointed rock mass behavior
  • Discrete element method
  • Joint normal stiffness
  • Jointed rock mass modeling
  • Particle flow code
  • Smooth-joint contact model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Computer Science Applications


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